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Endocarditis is an inflammation of the lining of the heart (endocarditis). The condition is usually caused by bacteria, but it is a rarity among people with a healthy heart.
The disease is not always easy to diagnose because the symptoms can develop gradually and are noticeable, only with a severe inflammation. Therefore, many cases of the disease remain unrecognized.
The symptoms of endocarditis are often confused with the flu or other general infections, such as pneumonia. However, are cases in which patients experience severe symptoms that appear suddenly. These symptoms are the result of inflammation or damage to the endocardium. The most common symptoms that may occur with the disease, include:
- paleness of skin,
- high fever,
- intense night sweats,
- arthralgia, myalgia,
- decreased appetite,
- a feeling of fullness in the upper left abdomen,
- weight loss.
- blood in the urine,
- swollen legs, ankles, and feet,
- shortness of breath,
- a troublesome cough,
- heart murmurs, which is characterized by a strange sound pulse.
When we are dealing with endocarditis, may also appear, skin changes as red or purple spots on the fingers and toes, bursting blood vessels on the eyeball, inside the cheeks, on the lips or the chest.
The symptoms of the disease, are dependent on the person and may differ from each other significantly. They may also change over time, depending on their cause. However, if there are any of the above symptoms, you should see a doctor, especially when to have a history of heart disease, went through surgery of the heart or endocarditis.
The causes of endocarditis
The leading cause of the illness is a bacterial overgrowth. Bacteria although naturally located outside the body, they can be absorbed by the food or beverage, or as a result of the injury. The immune system usually fights this type of infections before they cause a problem, but for some people, this situation may be out of control, resulting in the emergence of a dangerous inflammation.
In the case of endocarditis, germs can be transferred through the bloodstream directly to the heart, where will multiply, causing inflammation. The disease may also occur due to fungus or other pathogens but tend to be cases in which the primary reason is not found.
The bacteria that cause inflammation, can get into our body not only by eating, drinking, and blood but also when:
- we brush the teeth,
- we do not care about oral hygiene or suffer from gum disease,
- we experience an infection with sexually transmitted diseases,
- by using contaminated needles or catheter,
- while undergoing dental procedures that are associated with the treatments on the gums.
The factors that increase the risk of endocarditis include:
- injecting drugs or other substances contaminated with bacteria or fungi needle – germs, at the time go through into the bloodstream, being able to increase the risk of inflammation endocarditis,
- scars caused damage to heart valves, is an excellent habitat for the development of bacteria and other germs,
- previous endocarditis, or being at risk because of tissue damage endocarditis,
- heart defects, increase the possibility of inflammation endocarditis,
- the first year after receiving an artificial heart valve is the period of increased risk of endocarditis.
Diagnosis and treatment of endocarditis
Diagnosis beyond the analysis of symptoms and evaluation of the medical history of the patient, includes a physical examination and additional tests including:
- blood test – which may help to assess whether the infection resulted from fungus, bacteria, or other microorganisms, can also reveal other symptoms such as anemia,
- echocardiogram – to evaluate the appearance of signs of damage or abnormality of the heart,
- by esophageal echocardiogram – an additional test that will accurately portray the state of the heart,
- an electrocardiogram – another test evaluating the condition of the heart, helps detect abnormal heart rhythm,
- chest x-ray – a collapsed lung may be a sign of endocarditis; therefore X-rays can show any irregularities and exclude other diseases.
The treatment of the disease, mostly based on antibiotics – in the case of bacterial infections. Most often it takes approximately six weeks. With advanced disease may be necessary intravenous antibiotics and hospitalization.
If the illness is caused by damage to the heart valves, then may be necessary a surgical operation. Sometimes there is a need to remove damaged valves and replace them with new ones.
The disease may be associated with numerous complications caused by infections, so it is important to react quickly. They can appear unintended arrhythmia, atrial fibrillation, blood clots and jaundice. Endocarditis can infect the blood, causing blockages and blood clots in other parts of the body, including the lungs, brain, kidneys, and even bones.
The bacteria that cause endocarditis can also cause abscesses which are developing in different parts of the body. Some of the serious complications of untreated endocarditis is also a stroke and heart failure.