What is acute pericarditis?
Pericarditis is inflammation of the sac (pericardium What is the pericardium? The pericardium is the sac that goes around your heart. The pericardium helps: Keep the heart in position Prevent the heart from overfilling with blood Protect the heart from being damaged by... read more ) that surrounds your heart.
The pericardium is made of 2 thin layers. The space between the layers has some fluid that helps the layers slide easily over one another.
Acute pericarditis is sudden, painful inflammation of the pericardium. Usually, it causes fluid to build up between the layers of the pericardium.
Infection, heart attack, and other health problems, such as lupus and cancer, cause acute pericarditis
You may have a fever and sharp chest pain, but some people don't have any symptoms
To tell if you have acute pericarditis, doctors will do echocardiography
To treat it, doctors will give you medicine to lessen pain and swelling, and they may have you stay in the hospital
What causes acute pericarditis?
Causes of acute pericarditis include:
Infection, such as viruses, bacteria, AIDS Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Infection and AIDS The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a type of virus called a retrovirus. It causes AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), which is life-threatening. HIV is called an immunodeficiency... read more , and tuberculosis Tuberculosis (TB) Tuberculosis (TB) is a common, serious infection caused by bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. TB affects millions of people worldwide, particularly in low-resource countries... read more
Other health problems, such as lupus Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) Systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus) is a long-term autoimmune disease. In an autoimmune disease, your immune system attacks parts of your own body. Lupus is most common in women between the... read more , rheumatoid arthritis Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) Arthritis is a group of diseases that makes your joints hurt, swell up, and turn red. There are many different types of arthritis. RA is a type of arthritis in which your body's immune system... read more , and rheumatic fever Rheumatic Fever Rheumatic fever is inflammation of the joints, heart, skin, and nervous system, resulting from a complication of untreated streptococcal infection of the throat. This condition is a reaction... read more
Radiation therapy Radiation Therapy for Cancer Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses beams of radiation to destroy cancer cells and shrink cancer tumors. Doctors use radiation to treat many types of cancer, including head, neck... read more (a type of cancer treatment that uses high energy [radiation] to shrink cancer tumors and destroy cancer cells)
Certain medicines, such as blood thinners, antibiotics, and antiseizure medicine
What are the symptoms of acute pericarditis?
Symptoms of acute pericarditis include:
Sharp chest pain
The pain may go down your left shoulder and arm and get worse when laying down, swallowing food, coughing, or breathing deeply.
How can doctors tell if I have acute pericarditis?
To tell if you have acute pericarditis, doctors will do an exam to listen to your heart and do:
ECG/EKG (electrocardiogram) Electrocardiography Electrocardiography is a test that measures your heart’s electrical activity. It's quick, painless, and harmless. The results of that test are shown in an electrocardiogram. It looks like a... read more —a test that measures your heart’s electrical activity
Doctors may do blood tests and take a sample of fluid or tissue from the pericardium to see what caused the pericarditis.
How do doctors treat acute pericarditis?
Doctors treat the cause of acute pericarditis. They also give you medicine to lessen your pain and swelling, such as:
Anti-inflammatory medicine, such as aspirin
An opioid, such as morphine, for severe pain
A corticosteroid to lessen swelling
If medicine isn’t helping or a lot of fluid has built up, doctors may:
Have you stay in the hospital to monitor your progress
Remove fluid from your pericardium using a needle and small catheter (pericardiocentesis)
Do surgery to drain the fluid from your pericardium
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