Pericarditis or pericarditis (pericarditis) is the inflammation of the connective tissue surrounding the heart completely. It can be caused by pathogens such as viruses or bacteria, but also by non-infectious reactions of the immune system.
A pericarditis can occur acutely and is often accompanied by strong symptoms. These can be life-threatening, because a common complication of acute pericarditis is an effusion in the pericardium, which constricts the heart muscle and greatly impair its function (pericardial tamponade). But there are also chronic pericarditis, the insidious and (almost) run without signs of disease.
Infections, but also diseases of the immune system (such as rheumatic diseases) can trigger acute pericarditis. In addition, the pericarditis may be the result of a heart attack and occurs when the dead heart muscle is broken down and replaced by scar tissue (Dressler syndrome).
Chronic pericarditis often occurs when acute pericarditis (despite treatment) does not heal completely and flares up again and again. But even without previous acute course, for example, in a tuberculosis, rheumatological diseases or triggered by drugs or medical radiation (such as a lung tumor), pericarditis can be chronic.
Typical symptoms of acute pericarditis include pain behind the sternum (retrosternal pain) or throughout the chest. The pain can also spread to the neck, back or left arm and increase when inhaled, coughing, swallowing or by changes in position. Often, people with acute pericarditis also have a fever.
The first measure of pericarditis is physical rest to relieve the heart. Patients with pericarditis are treated according to the recommendations of the specialist in the hospital, provided that symptoms and test results do not speak for a viral infection. This can also be treated on an outpatient basis. Then the therapy depends on the causes of pericarditis (causal therapy).
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