Patient's Complete Guide to Pericarditis
Overview of Pericarditis
Suffering from chest pain can be more serious than one can imagine. Intense chest pain is a sign of a heart issue known as Pericarditis.
Pericarditis is also known as Warm E Ghilaaf Qalb (ورمِ غلافِ قلب). It is a condition that results in swelling or inflammation of a thin dual layered bag like a membrane –pericardium that surrounds the heart.
Lubricating fluid is present between the two layers of the pericardium which normally helps in reducing the friction when a heartbeat. However, an inflamed pericardium causes intense chest pain when the membranes slide against each other.
Most of the time pericarditis is sudden but doesn’t last for a longer period of time. Recovery of the disease occurs on its own but it can be life-threatening if the symptoms remain persistent.
Signs and Symptoms of Pericarditis
Symptoms of pericarditis vary depending upon the type and intensity of the disease. However, sudden intense chest pain is one of the most common symptoms.
Other signs and symptoms are:
- Shortness of breath
- Dry coughing
- Fatigue and weakness
- Low fever and shivering
- Swelling in legs, ankles, and feet
- Increased heart rate
Symptoms also vary from person to person based on their condition and immunity level.
Types of Pericarditis
Types of pericarditis vary depending upon the nature and intensity of the disease as some are acute while rest are chronic.
A common type is an acute pericarditis that usually occurs in three different forms
Acute Fibrinous Pericarditis
In an acute medical condition, a material known as fibrin covers the inflamed pericardium.
Acute Purulent Pericarditis
This particular condition is associated with pus that covers the pericardium.
Acute Constrictive Pericarditis
In this condition, calcified fibrosis material forms a dense mass around the pericardium.
Chronic pericarditis lasts longer than three weeks and can affect a healthy heart in different ways such as:
Pericardial Effusion – occurs when fluid is filled in the pericardium and if it happens all of a sudden this can lead to an emergency condition known as Cardiac tamponade.
Constrictive Pericarditis is a condition that makes the heart unable to expand on its own as the pericardium gets stuck with the heart muscles.
Chronic types are of prime concern when it comes to medical help.
Causes of Pericarditis
It is hard to determine the exact cause of pericarditis and for some cases, the cause remains uncertain till the end. Some of the possible causes of pericarditis can be:
- Infectious agents such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other pathogens may be responsible for the development of the disease.
- Cardiac issues such as heart attack, surgeries, and trauma Autoimmune disorders (lupus and rheumatoid arthritis)
- Renal/kidney failure
There are ways to prevent chronic pericarditis. However, if pericarditis is acute, it cannot be prevented. But, no need to worry as both your doctor and you can take measures to avoid another episode of acute pericarditis, chronic pericarditis and complications due to it. These measures include getting quick treatment, following the treatment plan properly and then getting proper follow-ups and medical treatment as needed.
Diagnosis of pericarditis is done either by physical examination of the chest using a stethoscope or with the help of diagnostic tests. Your doctor will diagnose the type and severity of the disease based on your symptoms and medical history.
Some diagnostic tests such as electrocardiogram, chest X-ray, echocardiogram, MRI, CT scan, and blood tests are required to properly diagnose the type of disease.
Treatment of Pericarditis | When to Consult a Doctor
Treatment methods differ depending on the cause. Mostly, a mild type of pericarditis occurs in the majority of the patients and they recover easily using anti-inflammatory drugs along with proper rest.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDs) are used to reduce pain and swelling. However, strong medicines are prescribed for severe types of the disease. In other cases, colchicine and corticosteroids are effective for minimizing the symptoms and reducing the chances of recurring. If a patient stops responding to all the treatment methods then surgery is the last resort to save the heart.
Chest pain should not be ignored especially if it is sharp and persistent. If you feel any signs and symptoms related to severe chest pain, it is advised to seek medical care immediately. An early diagnosis can make your treatment easy and effective.