‘Endocarditis’ is defined as the inflammation of the inner lining of your heart’s chambers and valves. This is highly damaging and can even be life-threatening.
It is important to know about endocarditis and its early symptoms, so you are in the best place to look after your heart and seek medical advice, if necessary.
What to look out for
Endocarditis is a condition which can be hard to spot straightaway. Sometimes symptoms develop over weeks and months, however, they can also develop quickly.
Commonly known symptoms of endocarditis include:
- Aching muscles and joints
- Abnormal heart sounds such as heart murmurs
- Flu-like symptoms (high temperature, fatigue, headaches, coughs, and a sore throat)
- Chest pain
- Random weight loss
- Pale skin
How does Endocarditis develop?
Endocarditis can be caused by infections, or when bacteria or fungi enter your bloodstream from another part of your body and can attach to damaged areas of your heart.
You can develop endocarditis in many ways, as listed above. However, it can sometimes be difficult to find the exact cause. It is likely that those who are at high risk of developing endocarditis are those with a pre-existing problem with their heart, such as damaged heart valves, heart valve disease, those who have had a valve replaced, or intravenous drug users.
What Complications can Endocarditis Cause?
As endocarditis is caused by bacteria or fungi, clumps of germs and cells can form abnormal mass in your heart. If they break loose, they can travel to other areas of your body, such as kidneys, arms, and legs.
Complications can then be caused, such as:
- Heart problems
- A pulmonary embolism (a blood clot in a lung artery)
- Kidney damage
To discover whether this may happen a cardiologist would assess and monitor you regularly.
How Can You Lower your Risk of Developing Endocarditis?
There are improvements you can make to your health that help reduce your risk, these include:
- Visiting the dentist regularly
- Avoiding body modifications such as tattooing and piercing
- Washing your hands regularly and properly
- Being cognisant of the symptoms, and consulting a professional if you are concerned
If you spot any signs or symptoms of endocarditis, it is really important to seek professional advice, especially if you have a pre-existing problem with your heart and are at a higher risk.
Diagnosis of endocarditis is generally done through:
- Blood tests, to detect bacteria and the cause of inflammation
- An echocardiogram that searches for damage in the heart
- An ECG, commonly known as an electrocardiogram, which looks at abnormal heart rhythm
- A chest X-Ray to detect fluid build-up
- An MRI scan which can show what is happening in the heart
If you have any concerns about endocarditis, here at Venturi Cardiology, we can offer rapid diagnostics and access to expert advice. Do contact us if you have any queries about endocarditis or your heart health in general.