Medically Reviewed by William A. Jackson, MD
When the sack surrounding the heart becomes inflamed, the painful condition is called pericarditis. McLeod Cardiologist William Jackson, MD, says the causes can range from a fever to a fungus:
Here are highlights from Dr. Jackson’s comments:
Pericarditis is an inflammation of the heart lining. The heart is surrounded by a sack called the pericardium. It’s a thin layer of fluid that separates the sack from the actual heart muscle. You can have an inflammatory process that creates chest pain and feels like the crushing chest pain from a heart blockage.
Pericarditis generally occurs after a feverish illness. It’s usually a viral syndrome that affects the heart. Although some bacteria can also cause pericarditis. Pericarditis can occur after a heart attack and also after heart surgery.
The most common complaint is crushing chest pain. But the patient experiences a different intensity of chest pain when lying down versus sitting up. We’re all concerned with ischemia heart disease (related to blockages) and the presenting symptom for ischemia heart disease is chest pain. When a patient presents with pericarditis they may have chest pain, similar to but not caused by ischemia heart disease. We rely on a history, physical and EKG to help us in the diagnosis of pericarditis.
There are several treatment options for pericarditis. The most common is NSAID, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, most commonly, known as Motrin or ibuprofen. We also use steroids in the form of prednisone. If the patient has recurrent or difficult to treat pericarditis, we can use a gout medication, called Colchicine. Antibiotics are also a good treatment option for pericarditis, particularly if the pericarditis is caused by a bacterial infection. Some fungi may also cause pericarditis, which need to be treated with antifungal agents.
Everyone is at risk of pericarditis. Anyone who can obtain a viral infection is at risk of having pericarditis as result of the viral syndrome. It is most commonly seen in people 20 to 50 years of age.