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Pericarditis - 7 Signs That Say You Are Suffering From It!

Written and reviewed by
Dr. Smita Mishra 87% (24 ratings)
FDNB, MD, MBBS
Pediatric Cardiologist, Delhi  •  33 years experience
Pericarditis - 7 Signs That Say You Are Suffering From It!

Pericarditis refers to the swelling and irritation of the pericardium, which is a thin saclike membrane surrounding the heart. The problem of pericarditis causes chest pain and certain other symptoms. When the irritated layers of the pericardium get rubbed against each other, that leads to sharp chest pain. It starts off suddenly but does not last long. Pericarditis is considered to be chronic, when the symptoms tend to persist for a considerable amount of time.

Symptoms

Pericarditis can be classified into different types, depending upon the patterns of symptoms and how long do they last. The acute form of the problem tends to last for not more than three weeks. The form which continues upto six weeks but less than three months, is known as incessant pericarditis.  The chronic form of pericarditis can be associated with inflammation, which is chronic in nature and might lead to accumulation of fluid around the heart. Chest pain is one of the most common symptoms of Pericarditis.

So, depending upon the type of problem, the symptoms could be:

  • Extremely sharp chest pain either over the center or on the left hand side of the chest, which becomes intense as and when a person tries to breathe in.

  • A person would experience problem in breathing while being at the reclining position.

  • There would be heart palpitations.

  • You might suffer from low intensity fever.

  • A sense of weakness accompanied by fatigue might be felt.

  • Coughing would also be one of the symptoms.

  • A person might also come across swelling in the abdomen or on the legs.

Causes

At the time pericarditis, there is inflammation on the pericardial sac, which results in friction at the inflamed sac, hence leading to chest pain.

It can develop soon after a person suffers a major heart attack, as the damaged heart muscle underneath gets irritated. There might even be a delayed form of pericarditis, which could occur several weeks after suffering a heart attack or even after undergoing a heart surgery.

The pericarditis in delayed form is known as Dressler’s syndrome. It can also be referred to as postpericardiotomy syndrome or post-cardiac injury syndrome.

Few other causes could be:

  • Trauma: A person might suffer an injury on the chest or heart through a motor vehicle accident, resulting in the occurrence of pericarditis.

  • Systematic inflammatory disorders: Problem of lupus of rheumatoid arthritis can cause pericarditis.

  • Some health disorders: If a person is suffering from any of the health disorders like AIDS, kidney failure, cancer or tuberculosis, which can increase the chances of him/her, getting affected by pericarditis.

Treatment

Treatment depends upon the exact cause along with the severity. The various treatment options are:

  • Medications: Medications help in reducing inflammations and swelling associated with the problem and the frequently prescribed medicines are: Pain relievers like aspirin or inuprofen, Colchicine to ensure reduction of inflammation and Corticosteroids, when a patient does not respond to pain relievers.

  • Hospitalization and other procedures: Hospitalization would be required if a doctor feels, complication in the form of cardiac tamponade, which occurs due to accumulation of fluid in the heart.

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