Pericarditis is due to inflammation and swelling of the pericardium, a thin sac-like membrane that surrounds the heart. It often causes chest pain and sometimes accompanies other symptoms. Pericarditis is usually sudden and temporary. When symptoms develop more gradually or persist, the condition is considered chronic.
Symptoms include fever, sharp chest pain, difficulty in breathing and fast heart rate. The chest pain characteristically gets worse on deep breathing and relieved when patient leans forward.
Pericarditis occurs when the damaged pericardium rubs against each other causing irritation and swelling. This causes a sharp chest pain. Other causes of pericarditis include systemic inflammatory disorders, trauma (injury to the heart or chest) and health problems like kidney failure, tuberculosis or cancer.
Doctors may prescribe imaging tests to verify the condition. They include echocardiogram, computerised tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.
Doctors usually recommend bed rest for mild cases of pericarditis as it usually improves on its own gradually. For severe cases, medication may be prescribed to relieve pain and reduce swelling and inflammation of the pericardium. For extreme cases where there is a fluid accumulation around the heart, a procedure to remove the fluid - either via a needle or surgery - may be recommended.
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