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Pericarditis
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Pericarditis

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HEART & BLOOD

Heart Disease

From MayoClinic.com

 

Causes

A variety of infectious and noninfectious disorders can cause pericarditis. In the Western world, pericarditis is commonly related to an irritation of the pericardium that can occur after open-heart surgery. This form of pericarditis usually improves over time.

Pericarditis can develop shortly after a major heart attack due to the irritation of the underlying damaged heart muscle. In addition, a delayed form of pericarditis may occur weeks after a heart attack because of antibody formation. This delayed pericarditis is known as Dressler's syndrome. Many experts believe Dressler's syndrome is due to an autoimmune response, a mistaken inflammatory response by the body to its own tissues — in this case, the heart.

Infectious causes of pericarditis are most often due to a virus — such as adenovirus or coxsackievirus — but in some cases pericarditis is related to bacteria, parasites or fungi. When bacteria cause pericarditis, and pus collects in the pericardial sac, the condition is called purulent pericarditis. The sudden onset of symptoms may develop one to two weeks after the initial infection has occurred.

Other causes of pericarditis include:

  • Widespread systemic inflammatory disorders. These may include lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

  • Trauma. Injury to your heart or chest may occur as a result of a motor vehicle or other accident.

  • Other health disorders. These may include kidney failure, AIDS, tuberculosis and cancer.

In many cases of pericarditis, the cause of the inflammation isn't known (idiopathic).

When to seek medical advice

Call your doctor if you develop symptoms that may indicate pericarditis, particularly severe chest pain. Many of the symptoms of pericarditis are similar to those of other medical conditions. The sooner you visit your doctor, the sooner you can receive proper diagnosis and treatment. For example, although the cause of acute chest pain may be pericarditis, the cause could also be coronary artery disease. Because it's difficult to distinguish these two types of pain, consider any acute chest pain to be a medical emergency and seek immediate care.

 

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