Dealing with Pericarditis
One possible source of chest pain is pericarditis, which is the irritation and swelling of the pericardium – the tissue which surrounds the heart. When the irritated layers rub against one another, they cause a pain often described as a sharp chest pain.
Depending on the severity of the case, pericarditis may simply go away on its own, but in severe cases one may require medication or, in more rare cases, surgery.
What Are the Symptoms of Pericarditis?
Pericarditis typically causes a sharp or stabbing chest pain in those who suffer from it. In some cases, you might instead feel a dull pain, a pressure-like pain, or an achy pain in your chest.
Typically, pain from pericarditis is felt behind the breastbone or on the left side of your chest. The pain may also spread, to the neck and left shoulder. It might get worse if you are lying down, taking a deep breath or coughing. The pain could also get better when you lean forward or sit up. Beyond the pain typically felt, you could also experience:
- Swelling of the leg
- Low-grade fever
- Feeling of weakness, fatigue or being sick
- Shortness of breath when you lie down
- Swelling of the abdomen
- A racing/pounding heartbeat, also called heart palpitations
As with any heart-related condition, it is best to consult with your physician to reduce the risk of complications by getting an early diagnosis and treatment. The possible complications can include fluid building up around the heart, pressure on the heart resulting from that buildup, and a scarring and thickening of the heart lining,
What Causes Pericarditis?
It is not always easy to determine the cause of pericarditis and, even if your diagnosis is confirmed, your doctor may not find a cause. However, there are some typical causes of pericarditis to be aware of:
- An infection, including COVID-19
- Immune response in to heart damage
- This can happen as a result of heart surgery or a heart attack
- Inflammatory disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus
- Chest or heart injury
- Kidney failure, cancer, or other chronic health conditions
With causes of pericarditis being difficult to determine, it can also be difficult to actively prevent pericarditis. Generally, it is recommended to avoid people to have flu-like or viral illnesses to avoid complications, and of course to avoid others if you have such an illness. Good hygiene is a good general rule for overall health, especially to stop the spread of illness. Importantly, you should also remain up to date on all vaccinations to avoid an infection that could lead to any complications, including pericarditis.
When Should You See A Doctor About Pericarditis?
The heart is such a crucial part of our anatomy that it is always better to be safe than sorry. Any time you have a new chest pain it is advisable to seek medical attention, given the wide range of possible causes. This is especially true of pericarditis, as it shares many symptoms with other serious conditions of the heart and lungs.