Pericarditis, Inflamation of the Pericardium
A painful medical condition, pericarditis typically affects more men than women ands is most commonly seen in those between their early twenties and their early fifties.
What Exactly Is Pericarditis?Pericarditis is a term used to describe a medical condition in which the pericardium becomes inflamed. The pericardium is a structure made up of two thin layers of tissue that encase the heart like a sac. Its purpose is to protect the heart from infectious substances, keep the heart stabilised in its location and to provide a cushion to any sudden movements.
When these tissue layers become inflamed, a lot of pain can be caused for the sufferer.The amount of fluid held between the two layers can increase during periods of pericarditis which can not only affect the heart’s ability to function effectively but can also increase the amount of pain experienced.
Causes Of PericarditisThere are numerous possible causes of pericarditis with the most common being related to a viral infection following the person having contact with an already infected person.
It is also possible to develop the condition following alternative infections of either a fungal or bacterial infection, as a consequence of some cancers and their treatments, after an operation or following a heart attack.
Symptoms Of PericarditisThe symptoms of pericarditis can make it initially difficult to decide a specific diagnosis as the most obvious symptom is pain and this can be either a continual pain or come and go in sharp stabs. It may be worse on movement or when assuming certain postures and positions, may be exacerbated by coughing or exertion, can be felt in either the central chest area or towards the left-hand side and may manifest in other associated areas such as the neck or shoulders.
Initially pericarditis may be misdiagnosed as a chest infection especially if the breathing is affected and tiredness and fatigue are obvious. It is however important to get a proper diagnosis so that an affected treatment can be sought before long term health problems are permitted to develop.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms make an appointment to see your GP who will carry out a full physical assessment and have a lengthy discussion about your symptoms and your medical history. Following this it would be normal to take a blood test which will reveal any infections and often you will be referred to have an imaging test or a scan. This can include an X-ray, an ECG or an MRI. These tests will show whether your heart is enlarged, its position and any associated inflammation among other things.
If however, you are experiencing central chest pain, are feeling cold but sweaty, feel generally unwell and are having difficulty breathing it is essential that you seek urgent medical assistance as these symptoms are typical of a heart attack and immediate treatment is needed.
Treating PericarditisThere are a number of different treatment potions for pericarditis and it will depend on how bad your symptoms are as to what is planned for you.
If your heart is found to be fairly enlarged and your breathing is affected you may need a procedure called a pericardiocentisis during which the excessive amount of fluid is drained away taking the strain off the organ and your lungs.
In most cases simple pain killers will be enough whilst anti-inflammatory medications decrease the amount of inflammation.
For some people, the use of steroids will be indicated especially in those who suffer repeated attacks.
Pericarditis can cause anxiety and be a painful experience for the sufferer and diagnosis is essential to ensure it is not mistaken for other problems and to make sure that a heart attack is not the cause of the symptoms.
Please do see your GP if you have any chest pain, even though many cases of chest pain are not serious. With early intervention several cardiac problems can be dealt with effectively but the longer they are left the more difficult it is to treat.