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Pericarditis
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Pericarditis

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HEART & BLOOD

Heart Disease

From MayoClinic.com

Pericarditis is a swelling and irritation of the pericardium, the thin, two-layered, membranous sac that surrounds your heart. This condition causes chest pain and other signs and symptoms, which may develop suddenly.

Under normal circumstances, the pericardial sac contains a small amount of lubricating fluid. But when the pericardium becomes inflamed, the amount of fluid in the sac may increase. Doctors use the term pericardial effusion to describe this fluid collection. The collection of excess fluid in the pericardium can place pressure on your heart. This can squeeze your heart and interfere with its ability to fill adequately and pump blood efficiently, a disorder known as cardiac tamponade.

Pericarditis may be acute or chronic. The sharp chest pain associated with it occurs when the pericardium rubs against the heart's outer layer. Mild cases may improve on their own. Treatment for more severe cases may include medications and surgery.

Signs and symptoms

The most common symptom of pericarditis is sharp, stabbing chest pain behind the breastbone or in the left side of your chest. But a minority of people with this condition describe their chest pain as dull, achy or pressure-like instead, and of varying intensity. The sharp pain may travel into your left shoulder and neck. It often intensifies when you lie down or inhale deeply. Sitting up and leaning forward can often ease the pain. At times, it may be difficult to distinguish pericardial pain from the pain that occurs with coronary artery disease.

Other signs and symptoms often associated with pericarditis include:

  • Shortness of breath when reclining

  • Low-grade fever

  • An overall sense of weakness, fatigue or feeling sick

  • Dry cough

  • Pain while swallowing

  • Faintness, dizziness

  • Hiccups, rarely

  • Abdominal swelling

 

 

 

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