Heart is indeed one of the vital organs that often be portrayed similar to an engine to the body. Taking care of heart health is important as many of the heart diseases may actually be prevented through a good healthy way of living. The heart itself is a strong organ as it pumps the blood throughout the body within the 100 000 kilometres of blood vessels in the human body. The heart never stops working until a person dies. When the heart is affected by disease, the heart may not function properly. One of the diseases of the heart is heart inflammation.
Heart inflammation is the body’s natural reaction to an infection or injury to the heart. In order to protect the body, the white blood cells send chemicals that increase blood flow to the area. This inflammation process leads to redness, swelling or pain. Inflammation can affect the lining of the heart or valves, the heart muscle or the tissue surrounding the heart. Common causes include viral or bacterial infection and medical conditions such as autoimmune disease. Heart inflammation can occur suddenly or progress slowly. Heart inflammation may not cause any symptoms ranging from mild to severe symptoms.
Inflammation to the heart can be divided to 3 types:
- Endocarditis- inflammation to the inner lining of the heart valves and chambers. Clumps of bacteria or fungi from other parts of the body travel through the blood and collect on the endocardium. Clumps occur more on the heart valves compared to the heart chambers. Pieces of clumps can break off and travel to other parts of the body, causing blood flow blockage or further spread of infection. It is often caused by bacteria in the blood from bacterial infection of other parts of the body or abnormalities in the endocardium layer that makes it easy for bacteria to accumulate.
- Myocarditis- Inflammation to the heart muscles. Acute myocarditis is typically caused by an infection like virus. Chronic myocarditis is typically caused by another medical condition such as autoimmune. Myocarditis can affect heart muscle to the extent of causing problems for the heart to pump blood. Myocarditis is a rare complication of COVID-19.
- Pericarditis- inflammation of the sac surrounding the heart. The sac is made of 2 thin layers of tissue with a small amount of fluid between them. This sac, known as pericardium, holds the heart in its position and protects against infection. Some people who have pericarditis also develop pericardial effusion, which means there is fluid buildup in the sac. It can lead to life-threatening events if the fluid buildup is too much and cause the heart unable to pump normally. This is known as cardiac tamponade.
Risk of heart inflammation is high in certain groups of people. Different age groups are at risk for different types of heart inflammation. While in general all ages can be affected by heart inflammation, myocarditis and pericarditis is more frequent in young adults and pericarditis in middle-aged adults. Older adults are at risk for endocarditis caused by bacteria. Men are likely to get heart inflammation but heart inflammation caused by autoimmune is more common in women such as those with lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Genetics does play a role in risk for all 3 types of heart inflammation. A person is at higher risk for myocarditis and pericarditis if they have any of the 2 rare inherited conditions: familial Mediterranean fever, tumour necrosis factor receptor-associated periodic syndrome. Certain medical conditions apart from autoimmune diseases such as diabetes, HIV/AIDS, skin disorders, eating disorders and poor dental health can raise risk for heart inflammation. Side effects from certain medicines may lead to myocarditis, pericarditis or both.
Heart inflammation caused by viruses, may cause symptoms such as cough, runny nose or gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea and abdominal pain a few weeks before there other symptoms of heart inflammation. Symptoms of heart inflammation may mimic flu and disappear after a few weeks. Other symptoms include chest pain or shortness of breath. Several common symptoms according to each type of heart inflammation:
- Endocarditis- fever, child, new or abnormal heart murmur, or abnormal heart sounds
- Myocarditis- chest pain or discomfort, pounding heart
- Pericarditis- fever, fast heartbeat, chest pain that gets worse with breathing, chest pain improved when leaning forwards or sitting up
Patients diagnosed with heart inflammation may wonder if there is a cure to the disease. In many cases, heart inflammation can be cured. Mild cases of pericarditis and myocarditis may resolve without treatment. Medication such as antibiotic and antifungal is used to treat bacterial and fungal infection respectively. Heart surgery may be needed in certain cases to repair damage to valves or nearby heart tissue from endocarditis. It may also involve removing infected tissue or repairing affected valves. Corticosteroids can help lower the inflammation. Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) can control the body’s immune response and inflammatory response in those with autoimmune.