Pericarditis

What is Pericarditis?

Pericarditis (PER-i-kar-DI-tis) is a condition in which the membrane, or sac, around your heart is inflamed. This sac is called the pericardium (per-i-KAR-de-um).

The pericardium holds the heart in place and helps it work properly. The sac is made of two thin layers of tissue that enclose your heart. Between the two layers is a small amount of fluid. This fluid keeps the layers from rubbing against each other and causing friction.

In pericarditis, the layers of tissue become inflamed and can rub against the heart. This causes chest pain, a common symptom of pericarditis.

The chest pain from pericarditis may feel like pain from a heart attack. If you have chest pain, you should call 9–1–1 right away, as you may be having a heart attack.

Overview

Many factors can cause pericarditis. Viral infections are likely a common cause of pericarditis, although the virus may never be found. Bacterial, fungal, and other infections also can cause pericarditis.

Other possible causes include heart attack or heart surgery, other medical conditions, injuries, and certain medicines. In many cases, the cause is unknown.

Pericarditis can be acute or chronic. "Acute" means that it occurs suddenly and usually doesn't last long. "Chronic" means that it develops over time and may take longer to treat.

Both acute and chronic pericarditis can disrupt your heart's normal rhythm and/or function and possibly (although rarely) lead to death. However, most cases of pericarditis are mild; they clear up on their own or with rest and simple treatment.

Other times, more intense treatments are needed to prevent complications. Treatments may include medicines and, less often, procedures or surgery.

Outlook

It may take from a few days to weeks or even months to recover from pericarditis. With proper and prompt treatment, such as rest and ongoing care, most people fully recover from pericarditis. These measures also can help reduce the chances of getting the condition again.

Read the rest of this article on pericarditis (and to read articles about other heart problems) from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute

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