Pericarditis: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

December 8, 2022

Pericarditis: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment
Share the article

The pericardium becomes inflamed in the thin, two-layered fluid-filled sac when you have pericarditis. The typical course of pericarditis is one of abrupt onset and may extend for a few weeks to a few months. However, the ailment typically goes away in three months. Pericardial effusion is the medical term for the extra fluid that accumulates in the area between the pericardial layers.

Type of Pericarditis

  • Acute pericarditis: Pericardial inflammation that appears out of the blue along with the development of symptoms.
  • Chronic pericarditis: Pericardial inflammation that persists for at least three months following an acute incident.
  • Constrictive pericarditis is a severe condition where the pericardium’s inflammatory layers stiffen, produce scar tissue, thicken, and adhere to one another. As a result, your heart’s regular operation is hampered by constrictive pericarditis. This typically occurs following a number of episodes of acute pericarditis over time.
  • An infection—whether bacterial, fungal, viral, or parasitic—can cause an infectious form of pericarditis to manifest.
  • Unknown causes of pericarditis are referred to as idiopathic pericarditis.
  • Traumatic pericarditis: manifests after a chest injury, such as that sustained in a vehicle accident.
  • Kidney failure is the cause of uremic pericarditis.
  • Malignant pericarditis is brought on by cancer that spreads throughout your body.

Pericarditis vs Myocarditis

The muscle of your heart has myocarditis. Your pericardium develops pericarditis. Viruses most frequently cause myocarditis and pericarditis. Both can cause chest pain, but the one caused by pericarditis should subside as you sit up and lean forward.

Pericarditis quick facts

These are some important pericarditis-related points.

  • The pericardium, a sack-like tissue that houses the heart, swells when someone has pericarditis.
  • Numerous factors, such as parasites, fungi, or bacterial or viral infections, might contribute to the illness.
  • A virus typically brings on pericarditis.
  • Palpitations, a dry cough, and shoulder soreness are pericarditis symptoms.
  • Pericarditis can occasionally leave a lasting scar on the pericardium.

Who is susceptible to pericarditis?

Pericarditis can affect anyone, although it more frequently affects men and adults between the ages of 16 and 65 who were assigned male at birth. Pericarditis affects about 28 people out of every 100,000 people annually.

How does my body respond to pericarditis?

When you have pericarditis, the membrane surrounding your heart becomes inflamed and reddened, similar to the skin around a cut. The pericardium covers the outside of your heart and is a delicate, two-layered fluid-filled sac. It keeps your heart lubricated, protects it from disease and cancer, and keeps your heart inside your chest wall. Additionally, it prevents your heart from overexpanding when blood volume rises, keeping your heart healthy.

Symptoms of Pericarditis

Chest pain is a sign of pericarditis in about 85 to 90 per cent of cases.

A sudden onset of a sharp or stabbing pain in your chest may feel like a heart attack. This is because the area behind your breastbone in your chest, either in the centre or on the left, may be painful. In addition, your jaw, arms, shoulders, and neck could all experience pain.

Additional signs include:

  • Fever, exhaustion, or weakness
  • Breathing difficulties, mainly when lying down, heart palpitations
  • Swelling in your ankles, feet, and legs due to a dry cough

Your symptoms might get worse if you:

Lay flat, inhale deeply, and swallow.

Constrictive pericarditis may cause swelling in the ankles, feet, and legs and shortness of breath with exertion. The pericardium becomes thick or challenging in this type of severe pericarditis. When this occurs, the heart’s ability to expand is restricted, which prevents your heart from functioning normally. When your heart is constricted, blood can go back into your lungs, belly, and legs, causing oedema and congestive heart failure symptoms. Another potential condition is an aberrant cardiac rhythm.

Causes of Pericarditis

The most frequent cause of pericarditis is a virus.

Additional infectious factors include:

  • infection with bacteria
  • fungal infection
  • infection with parasites

among the non-infectious reasons are

Cardiac problems, such as a prior heart attack or surgery, tumours pressing on the pericardium; wounds from radiation therapy; autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, some medications, which are uncommon; metabolic disorders, such as gout, and kidney failure.

How is Pericarditis diagnosed?

Two key indicators that you may have pericarditis and not a heart attack are chest pain with breathing and sharp pain in the back of your shoulders that feels better when you sit up and lean forward. In addition, your doctor will ask you about your symptoms, medical history, and any recent illnesses you may have had, as well as any heart ailments, surgeries, and other health issues that may increase your risk of developing pericarditis.

Your doctor will pay attention to your heart. The “pericardial rub” is a rubbing or creaking sound brought on by the friction of the irritated pericardium lining. Leaning forward, holding your breath, and exhaling will help them hear it the best.

Your doctor might also detect crackles in your lungs, which are indicators of fluid in the area around your lungs or additional liquid in your pericardium, depending on how severe the inflammation is.

Other diagnostic tests consist of the following:

  • Chest X-ray, which reveals your heart’s shape and any excess fluid that may be present electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG), which examines your heart’s rhythm.
  • Using echocardiography, you may determine your heart’s size, shape, and presence of any fluid buildup.
  • Right heart catheterisation, which provides information about the filling pressure in your heart; CT and MRI images, which provide a thorough view of your pericardium; and blood tests to look for inflammation markers

How to avoid pericarditis?

Pericarditis, wildly viral pericarditis, cannot be wholly avoided.

Rest and stay out of any strenuous physical activities until you fully recover. How long you should restrict your exercise should be discussed with your doctor.

As soon as you notice any recurring symptoms, consult your doctor.

Primary care doctors, such as family doctors, internists or paediatricians, often diagnose and treat pericarditis. Depending on the patient’s age and medical conditions, a cardiologist, pediatric cardiologist or infectious disease specialist may be involved.

People also ask

Is pericarditis life-threatening?

Pericarditis can range from a non-life-threatening sickness to a superficial infection that goes better on its own. Poor heart function and fluid accumulation around the heart can exacerbate the disease. However, when pericarditis is treated quickly, the outcome is favourable. The majority of people heal in two to three months.

Will pericarditis go away?

Most of the time, mild cases of pericarditis resolve independently. Medication and, in rare instances, surgery may be used as treatments for more severe cases. Early detection and intervention could lessen the chance of pericarditis-related long-term complications.

Does pericarditis show on ECG?

Blood tests are frequently performed to look for infection, inflammation, or heart attack indicators. The electrocardiogram is one possible additional test used to identify pericarditis (ECG).

How does pericarditis feel?

The most typical pericarditis symptom is chest discomfort. Usually, it feels sharp and stabbing. However, some people have chest pain that is mild, achy, or pressure-like. Pain from pericarditis typically appears on the left side of the chest or behind the breastbone.

Can the heart heal after pericarditis?

Certain cases might result in persistent pericarditis and other significant heart issues if left untreated. Pericarditis recovery can take weeks or even months. However, rest and regular treatment can help you fully recover and lower your chance of contracting it again.

Disclaimer: We recommend consulting a Doctor before taking any action based on the above shared information.



Department of Cardiology

Department of Cardiology

Chat with us!
Chat with us