Carditis is a general term for inflammation of heart tissue. The condition is categorized into three different disorders, depending on where inflammation occurs. Endocarditis refers to inflammation of the inner heart tissue, myocarditis affects the middle heart muscle, and pericarditis is irritation of the outer heart membrane. An individual who suffers from any type of carditis is likely to experience chest pains, shortness of breath, and fatigue. Most cases of carditis are caused by bacterial infections, viruses, or underlying health conditions, and tend to clear up with prescription medications.
Endocarditis and myocarditis are typically a result of bacteria entering the bloodstream and attaching to heart tissue. The most common symptoms of endocarditis are fatigue, coughing, chest pain, chills, and shortness of breath, though a person may also notice swelling in the hands and feet and blood in the urine over time. Myocarditis can result in similar symptoms, as well as a rapid heartbeat and sharp, shooting heart pain.
The heart is surrounded by a protective, fluid-filled sac known as the pericardium. The sac can become inflamed and irritated due to a viral infection, chest trauma, or other diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and cancer. Pericarditis can be acute or chronic, meaning its onset can be quick and severep or it may get progressively worse over a period of time. Acute pericarditis usually results in sharp chest pains, shortness of breath, and extreme fatigue. Chronic conditions are often painless at first, but symptoms such as difficulty breathing and swelling in the extremities tend to develop after about six months.
All three types of carditis are diagnosed similarly. A doctor usually asks a patient about his or her medical history and conducts a quick physical examination. The physician usually employs an electrocardiogram machine to monitor the electrical activity of the heart. A patient may also receive a chest x-ray or other tests to give the doctor a better picture of the problem. Once carditis has been diagnosed, the physician can determine the best treatment methods.
Most cases of myocarditis and endocarditis are treated with antibacterial or antiviral oral medications. Doctors usually suggest that patients with these conditions get plenty of rest and maintain healthy lifestyle choices to prevent the condition from worsening. An individual with pericarditis may receive anti-inflammatory drugs and painkillers. If a case of carditis does not go away within a month or continues to come back over time, doctors usually recommend surgical procedures to remove or replace inflamed tissue.