Endocarditis is inflammation of the inside of your heart.
What is infective endocarditis?
Infective endocarditis is:
Infection of the inside of your heart
The infection may be on the lining of your heart chambers or on your heart valves.
Infective endocarditis happens when bacteria get into your blood and travel to your heart
Infective endocarditis happens mainly in abnormal heart tissue, such as occurs when you have a birth defect Overview of Heart Defects About one in 100 babies is born with a heart defect. Some are severe, but many are not. Defects may involve abnormal formation of the heart's walls or valves or of the blood vessels that enter... read more of the heart or damaged heart valves, Overview of Heart Valve Disorders Your heart is a muscle that pumps blood through your body. Your heart has four chambers. The atria are the two upper chambers in your heart—the right atrium and the left atrium. The ventricles... read more or if you have an artificial heart valve
Infection can damage heart valves so they don't work right and cause heart failure Heart Failure Your heart pumps blood to carry oxygen and nutrients to the rest of your body. Heart failure is when your heart doesn’t pump blood as well as it should. It doesn’t mean your heart has stopped... read more
Doctors do blood tests and an echocardiogram Echocardiography and Other Ultrasound Procedures Echocardiography can be used to detect abnormalities in heart wall motion and to measure the volume of blood being pumped from the heart with each beat. This procedure can also detect abnormalities... read more to see if you have infective endocarditis
Doctors treat infective endocarditis with antibiotics and sometimes heart surgery
If you have an artificial heart valve or a birth defect in your heart, you may need to take antibiotics before surgery or a dental procedure to prevent endocarditis
What causes infective endocarditis?
Infective endocarditis is caused by bacteria or fungi that get into your blood and travel to your heart. Bacteria can get into your blood when you have:
A skin infection such as cellulitis Cellulitis Cellulitis is characterized by red, warm areas on the skin. Sometimes blisters form. Cellulitis is a bacterial infection in your skin. Cellulitis is a common skin infection that can spread quickly... read more or a skin abscess Folliculitis and Skin Abscesses This photo shows infected, inflamed hair follicles caused by a bacterial infection. A hair follicle is where a hair grows out from your skin. Folliculitis is inflammation or infection in a hair... read more
Certain kinds of surgery or dental procedures
An IV for a long time
You have a higher risk of getting infective endocarditis if you:
Were born with a heart problem
Have an abnormal or damaged heart valve
Inject recreational drugs
Have an artificial heart valve, pacemaker, or defibrillator
Had infective endocarditis in the past
What are the symptoms of infective endocarditis?
Infective endocarditis usually develops slowly. But sometimes it comes on quickly.
Subacute infective endocarditis is when endocarditis develops slowly, over weeks to months. You gradually develop symptoms such as:
Low fever (99° to 101° F or 37.2° to 38.3° C)
Acute infective endocarditis starts suddenly, and you become very ill quickly. One of your heart valves may be severely damaged within days. Symptoms include:
High fever (102° to 104° F or 38.9° to 40° C)
With either type of endocarditis, you may also have:
Painful lumps under your skin
Sometimes infected material from your heart spreads through your blood to other parts of your body. You may get infections in your lungs, brain, kidneys, or other organs.
How can doctors tell if I have infective endocarditis?
Doctors suspect infective endocarditis from your symptoms. To know for sure, they'll do:
Echocardiography Echocardiography and Other Ultrasound Procedures Echocardiography can be used to detect abnormalities in heart wall motion and to measure the volume of blood being pumped from the heart with each beat. This procedure can also detect abnormalities... read more (an ultrasound of your heart)
Blood tests to look for bacteria
How do doctors treat infective endocarditis?
Doctors treat infective endocarditis using:
Antibiotics, given by vein (IV), for at least 2 weeks and up to 8 weeks
Sometimes, heart surgery to fix or replace a damaged heart valve
How can I prevent infective endocarditis?
To prevent infective endocarditis:
Don't inject recreational drugs
Treat infections quickly
Take good care of your teeth and gums
If you're at high risk of infective endocarditis, you need to be particularly careful of these things. In addition, some high-risk people may also need to:
Take antibiotics before certain dental or surgical procedures that can let bacteria into the body
Ask your doctor whether you're at high risk.