How Can You Get Bacterial Endocarditis?
Bacterial endocarditis refers to the infection of the inner surface of the heart. Most commonly heart valves are affected. Usually, the vegetative growth occurs on the heart valves.
Symptoms of bacterial endocarditis include fever, fatigue, heart murmur and a decrease in red cells count. It is associated with various complications which include heart attacks which occur in 30 to 40% of the patients associated with valvular problems. At times infection may spread to perivalvular spaces and rarely involve conduction pathway. Occasionally immune complex deposition may occur in the basement membrane causing glomerulonephritis. Presentation varies from person to person.
How Can You Get Bacterial Endocarditis?
So, how can a person get bacterial endocarditis? Bacteria are solely responsible for bacterial endocarditis. The main causative bacteria comprises of Staphylococcus bacilli followed by streptococcus bacilli. There are many other bacteria’s too these include enterococci, which are also responsible for causing endocarditis.
A person can get infection via blood-borne infection. In cases of IV drug users, it is very common. Frequent injection of drugs may at times expose the person to bacterial infection, which through bloodstream may reach the heart valves and initiate infection. Once valves are involved slowly vegetation starts growing on them, which end up with valve replacement surgery.
If a person is immunocompromised, then there is a higher risk of acquiring the infection. Since the host immunity is decreased bacteria easily invade the valves and cause severe damage.
There are many other risk factors which may lead to bacterial endocarditis. Few are mentioned below-
- Artificial Heart Valve- Through this the person is exposed to exogenous infection, so in few cases infection is initiated in early stages of replacement.
Conditions in which congenital heart defects are left untreated.
- Cardiac implantations
- Hemodialysis is another route through which bacteria gain entry into the bloodstream.
- A condition in which immunity is suppressed like in diabetes mellitus, HIV, alcohol addiction.
- Other degenerated conditions of the heart which includes rheumatic heart disease and valvular heart disease.
It is typically seen in a patient with IV drug use. One can even get endocarditis after an attack of urinary tract infection as infection can spread through the bloodstream. Many cases of tooth infections are also associated with bacterial endocarditis. Thus, whatever may be the cause major route of transmission is blood.
So, if there are many ways of acquiring an infection surely, then there are a number of ways to get rid of them. Few such ways include-
Correcting Heart Diseases- Correction of the heart diseases in early stages so that infection does not spread to neighboring areas.
Correction of Congenital Heart Diseases as soon as possible.
Proper Dental Hygiene is a must as it has been observed that person with poor dental hygiene is three times at higher risk than a normal individual. So, if proper hygiene is maintained in initial stages of life one can reduce the chance of being affected by bacterial endocarditis.
Stent Placement- Proper care should be taken while placing a stent or artificial valves as these are the most common site of reinfection. Proper follow-up is mandatory to reduce the chance of getting an infection.
Diabetes- Condition like diabetes mellitus and hyperlipidemia should be taken care of as these are conditions usually associated with heart disease.
HIV- Immunocompromised persons are at higher risk of acquiring infection, thus person suffering from HIV or malignancy should take proper care.
Kidney Problems- Kidney failure which demands hemodialysis should be done with utmost care as this is another route through, which bacteria gain entry into the blood through infected equipment. The person should avoid hemodialysis until and unless it is mandatory.
UTIs- A person having frequent urinary tract infection should take proper care, because once an infection is initiated in any part of the body, it can gain access to the heart.
Overall to say, a person with bacterial endocarditis should undergo regular check-ups. A person receiving frequent blood transfusions that is patient with thalassemia or any other disease should be regularly monitored. Blood borne infection can be easily transmitted through repeated transfusions.
IV drug users should be given counseling and rehabilitation and these people should be motivated on regular basis for quitting drugs. Thought this requires high deal of patience one should not give up on such people as these people are bound to get infection if not stopped from using drugs.
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