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  • Writer's pictureNicoletta Orphanou

Acute pericarditis - Everything you need to know

The heart is located inside the body in a "sac", a tissue that protects it. This is called the pericardium. Pericarditis, therefore, means inflammation, irritation of the pericardium, the tissue that is located around the heart.

Symptoms of pericarditis

  • Chest pain. Many patients characteristically report that this pain worsens when they lie down and is relieved when they sit up leaning forward. The pain also seems to worsen when we try to take a deep breath.

  • Fever (not always)

Diagnosis of pericarditis

Your doctor will diagnose pericarditis after examining you and taking your medical history.

In addition, the following are required:

  • Electrocardiogram

  • Echocardiogram - in some cases fluid may accumulate in the pericardium, around the heart, and will require closer monitoring

  • Blood tests

A combination of these helps to make the diagnosis of pericarditis.

Causes of pericarditis

Pericarditis can occur for various reasons, although most of the time it is unknown what caused the pericarditis.

Other causes that can cause pericarditis:

  • Infections - eg. a cold or gastroenteritis

  • History of radiation therapy to the area

  • Severe kidney failure

  • Rheumatic diseases - patients with a known history of a rheumatic disease such as rheumatoid arthritis may also develop pericarditis as part of the rheumatic condition

  • Mediterranean fever

  • Cancer

Treatment of pericarditis

In this case, we will discuss the most common picture of pericarditis that we see from infections or unknown etiology that appears to be inflammation in an acute phase. If another cause of pericarditis has been found, for example Mediterranean fever, the treatment may be different.

If you have been diagnosed with acute pericarditis, your doctor will give you (unless there is any contraindication):

  • Anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, and aspirin for a few days.

  • Colchicine - a drug that is usually given for 3 months in pericarditis

During this time you should rest and not exercise.

If the symptoms do not subside or the pericarditis recurs after the end of the treatment, you may need to take cortisone, which will be done only after consultation and guidance from your doctor.


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