The human heart is made of three main layers: the endocardium, the myocardium and the epicardium. All three layers perform different vital functions for the heart. The innermost layer is the endocardium forms the inner linings of the heart and separates the heart layers from the blood. When this innermost layer develops an infection, the condition is called the endocarditis.
What are the Common Causes Of Endocarditis?
This condition usually develops because of bacterial, viral or fungal infection. Bacterial endocarditis is the most common form of the condition.
Typically, these disease-causing pathogens enter the body through our orifices like nose, mouth or ear and latch on to the damaged sections of the heart.
In most cases, the immune system should be able to kill these pathogens. However, there are conditions where the immune system becomes compromised and so these pathogens enter the heart through the blood stream and cause infection/inflammation in the heart valves.
In addition, the heart valves are not directly supplied with blood. Therefore, white blood cells (WBCs) cannot reach the valves via the bloodstream. Hence, when an infection develops in the heart valves, it is difficult for both our immune system and external medications who delivery depends on bloodstream to fight off the infection. The most common clinical symptoms seen are high fever with chills, an increased heart rate, muscle pain, swelling in the legs and a persistent cough.
Who are at Greater Risk Of Contracting Endocarditis?
Endocarditis is usually uncommon in patients with a healthy heart. The major risk factor for this condition would be a previous history of heart disease, which may include scarring caused by damaged heart valves, artificial heart valve replacement, prior episode of endocarditis, or any other congenital heart defect. These conditions compromise the immune system and increase the risk of developing a heart infection.
Other risk factors include absence of a good oral hygiene, use of a contaminated needle or an intravenous catheter and having multiple sexual partners (which could increase risk of the infection being sexually transmitted).
What are the Complications Developed Because Of Endocarditis?
Complications could develop because of damage caused by the infection. These could be clinically manifested as abnormal heart rhythm, development of jaundice due to high levels of bilirubin in the blood, or formation of blood clots that may spread to other parts of the body through the blood stream to cause obstruction. The original bacteria can also travel to other internal organs such as your brain, lungs, or kidneys to cause injury. This could lead to seizures, kidney damage, paralysis etc. In severe cases, endocarditis can lead to a stroke and eventual heart failure.
Can You Recover From Endocarditis?
Patients who are diagnosed early have good recovery with oral or intravenous antibiotic treatment. Most patients start their treatment by receiving intravenous antibiotics in the hospitals until they show visible signs of improvement. Later they are discharged and are switched to oral antibiotics and treatment is continued until about six more weeks or until the infection/inflammation subsides.
Patients who have developed complications generally need surgical intervention. Surgery may be performed to remove the dead/scarred tissue, remove the fluid collected in the heart or repair/replace a damaged heart valve. Recovery in these patients depends on the nature and severity of the complication developed and the type of surgical procedure performed.
How Can You Prevent Future Episodes Of Endocarditis?
Another aspect of this condition is the probability of relapse or re-infection if the initial treatment was not completely successful. If the patient has had a prior history of endocarditis or any of the risk factors associated with endocarditis, then they should consult their doctor when presented with symptoms of persistent fever or inexplicable fatigue. They also need to maintain good oral hygiene and dental health and avoid procedures that could lead to skin infections such as piercing or tattoos.
- Infective Endocarditis: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment
- Is Endocarditis Life Threatening?
- What Is The Most Common Cause Of Infective Endocarditis?
- Can a Person Die From Endocarditis?
- What Can Make Endocarditis Worse?
- Can You Drink When You Have Endocarditis?
- How will I Know If Endocarditis is Gone?
- Can Endocarditis Lead To Sepsis?