Pericarditis is a condition where inner lining of membrane of heart gets inflamed. The acute pericarditis gets resolved within few weeks & is self-limited. Pericarditis is self-limited by the proper care towards the symptoms of pain. If it reoccurs and show symptoms for long time of 6 to 12 months, then it is considered chronic. Chronic inflammation causes scarring, which prevents heart to beat appropriately and requires an emergency surgery. People with pericarditis may suffer from following complications, which requires emergency surgical intervention:
- Pericardial Effusion: Fluid accumulation around the heart.
- Pericardial Constriction: Heart compression.
Causes of Pericarditis
Although the reason behind pericarditis can’t be determined, however few common reasons are listed below
Infection: Inflammation of pericardium and viruses like Coxsackie B, adenovirus, influenza A & B, Epstein-Barr, Herpes simplex type 1, mumps, measles & HIV spread infection & infect mononucleosis. Bacteria, fungi and parasites may also cause pericarditis.
Inflammatory Disease: General inflammation in the body due to illness may also lead to inflammation of pericardium. For example: rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, systemic lupus erythematosus & sarcoidosis.
Illness: Chronic dialysis due to kidney disorder may cause pericarditis; heart attack patient may cause pericardial inflammation because of damaged heart muscles. Pericardial inflammation may also occur due to reduced thyroid function. Cancer is also a big reason of inflammation of pericardium. The abnormal cancer cells hematogenous spread through blood stream.
Trauma: It can cause penetrating injury to the heart & chest.
Medications: Like cancer chemotherapy, uncommonly may lead to pericarditis.
Radiation Cancer: Inflammation of pericardium can be caused by radiation cancer therapy.
Symptoms of Pericarditis
Chest Pain: It is the common symptom. Chest pain is pleuritic and sharp, as it makes breathing painful, it hurts the most when lying in flat and relaxed by leaning forward.
Fever: Fever is also a symptom of pericarditis.
Pericardial Effusion: The effusion raises the burden inside pericardium causing tamponade, which prevent heart muscles from contracting & beating. It may cause fainting, breathing problem and in few cases, even death.
Swelling: Swelling of feet, ankles or legs may prevent heart from widening to receive the blood from other parts of the body. It causes the constructive pericarditis, which occurs when pericardium, scars down and reside on heart surface.
How Do You Test For Pericarditis?
The history made by health care practitioners allows us to diagnosis of pericarditis. As most of the reasons for pericarditis are unknown, so it is important to inform about the underlying disease that can be treated. Recent illness, surgery or heart attack may give a clue of present pericarditis.
When an individual complaint about chest pain and consult a doctor. The doctors take concern about related diagnosis like atherosclerotic heart disease with aortic dissection, heart attack, pulmonary embolism, esophagitis and gastritis. As chest pain can occur due to any above mentioned problem.
The physical exam will take a note on general assessment of the patient, like existence of fever, tachypnea (rapid breathing rate) or tachycardia (rapid heartbeat)
The most efficient way to check the existence of pericarditis is by electrocardiogram. It reveals common electrical conduction abnormalities. Other tests like CT scan, ultrasound & blood test are also helpful in diagnosing the below listed causes:
- Complete Blood Count: It reveals the white blood cell count connected with bacterial infection, it may also be elevated due to stress.
- Blood chemistry test evaluates kidney function for checking the high quantity of urea in the blood or failure of kidney.
- Nonspecific markers for inflammation in the human body are ESR (Erythrocyte Sedimentation rate) and CRP (C-reactive protein).
- Pericarditis may be due to heart attack or myocarditis for which cardiac enzymes like troponin or myoglobin is measured.
- Other lab tests like viral or bacterial infections, tuberculin testing & thyroid test depending on the situations.
Some other tests are used to additionally define the extent in few critical cases. But most frequently MRI or CT scan are performed to study the situation of heart and structure.
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