Pericarditis, Causes and symptoms of Pericarditis


  • Posted on- Dec 26, 2013
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There are many problems related to the heart and it is very important for people to know about all these diseases and problems so that they can prevent them. One such problem is Pericarditis which is the occurrence of swelling and irritation on the pericardium, which is thin sac-like membrane that surrounds your heart. Pericarditis is a problem which often causes chest pain and sometimes, other symptoms also occur. This is normally short lived and a short lived problem if cured on time. When symptoms develop more gradually or persist, the Pericarditis is considered chronic. The sharp chest pain associated with this problem normally occurs when the inflamed or irritated two layers of the pericardium rub against each other.

Under normal circumstances, the two-layered pericardial sac that surrounds your heart contains a small amount of lubricating fluid. In Pericarditis,the sac becomes inflamed and the resulting friction from the inflamed sac leads to chest pain which becomes a problem for the patient. Though, finding out the reason as to why this problem occurred is next to impossible but most of the doctors have identified the reason behind this problem to be a viral infection.This problem can also occur after the patient has suffered a major heart attack and this is due to the irritation occurring on the underlying and damaged muscles of the heart. Moreover, a delayed form of Pericarditis may occur weeks after a heart attack or heart surgery because of antibody formation.

This delayed Pericarditis is also known as Dressler's syndrome which creates a lot of problems for the patients. Many experts believe Dressler's syndrome is due to an autoimmune response or a mistaken inflammatory response by the body to its own tissues following the heart and its tissues.


There are two kinds of Pericarditis happening to people. One is known as acute which only lasts for a few weeks and another is known as the chronic one which lasts for more than six months. If one is suffering from the acute Pericarditis, the most common symptom are sharp, stabbing chest pain behind the breastbone or in the left side of your chest which creates a lot of pain in the patient. However, some people suffering from the acute phase of this problem describe their chest pain as dull, achy or pressure-like instead, and of varying intensity which tends to create a lot of problem for them though for short durations. Also the pain of acute Pericarditis might move to the left side of the shoulder and neck.It often intensifies when the patient lie down or inhale deeply. Coughing,taking a deep breath or swallowing food also may make the pain worse and makes this problem also more complicated. Sitting up and leaning forward can ease the pain. At times, it may be difficult to distinguish pericardial pain from the pain that occurs with a heart attack.

Talking of the chronic phase of this problem, it is normally associated with chronic inflammation which further results into fluid surrounding the heart which in medical terms is known as pericardial effusion. Some of the most common kinds of symptoms identified in people suffering from this problem are:

  • Shortness of breath when one reclines
  • Sharp or piercing pain in the chest and especially spreading towards the center and left side of the chest
  • Having mild and low grade fever
  • Sudden swelling in the abdomen and leg of the patient
  • Persistent dry cough


The treatment in viral or idiopathic pericarditis is with aspirin, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs such as ibuprofen). Colchicine may be added to the above.

Severe cases may require: Pericardiocentesis to treat pericardial effusion/tamponade antibiotics to treat tuberculosis or other bacterial causes.

Steroids are used in acute pericarditis but are not favored because they increase the chance of recurrent pericarditis. in rare cases, surgery in cases of constrictive pericarditis, pericardiectomy


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