What is Endocarditis?
Endocarditis is a serious medical condition in which the heart’s innermost lining, the endocardium, becomes inflamed. If it is not treated quickly, the heart valves and muscles may be severely damaged. People with damaged or artificial heart valves or other heart defects have a high risk of developing endocarditis.
Causes of Endocarditis
Endocarditis is mainly caused by the entry of bacteria into the heart through the bloodstream where bacteria damages the heart tissue and causes inflammation. This condition is known as infective endocarditis. In some cases, the bacteria form clumps and block the passage of blood to the heart.
Some of the main causes of endocarditis are
- Congenital heart defects
- Use of unsterilized syringes and catheters
- Poor oral hygiene
- Entry of bacteria into the bloodstream from sexually transmitted infections
- Improper surgical procedures
- Intestinal disorders
- Impaired heart valves
- Family history of endocarditis
Symptoms of Endocarditis
In some people, symptoms may manifest in the initial stages, whereas in others it may take a while before symptoms are experienced. The symptoms may vary from one person to another.
Common symptoms include:
- Abnormal sound in the heart due to turbulent blood flow, known as a heart murmur
- Chest pain
- Night fever and chills
- Muscle and joint pains
- Edema (swelling) in lower legs and abdomen
Less common symptoms include:
- Red spots on your palms and soles of your feet due to damaged blood vessels
- Tender nodes under fingers and toes (Janeway lesions)
- Hematuria (blood in urine)
- Unexplained weight loss
Diagnosis of Endocarditis
Your doctor will discuss your symptoms, past medical history, and family history. A physical examination will be carried out to detect the presence of fever, heart murmur, or any small lumps or spots throughout your body. The following tests may be ordered:
- Electrocardiogram (ECG): to record the heart’s electrical activity
- Echocardiogram: to visualize the heart’s size, motion and structure using sound waves.
- Computerized tomography (CT) scan: to detect the presence of blocked or narrowed arteries using specialized x-ray technology
- Blood test: to detect the presence of any bacteria or fungi in your blood including ESR (Erythrocyte sedimentation rate) and CRP (C- reactive protein)
Treatment for Endocarditis
Antibiotics for Endocarditis: Most cases of endocarditis are treated with intravenous antibiotics. The type of antibiotic used depends on the result of the blood culture test and often includes penicillin or gentamycin.
Surgery for Endocarditis: If the antibiotics are ineffective or if you suffer from heart failure, surgery is carried out.
The surgical procedures may include:
- Repairing damaged heart valves or other defects
- Replacing damaged heart valves with prosthetic ones
- Draining any abscesses present within the heart muscle
Prevention of Endocarditis
- Good oral hygiene
- Use of sterilized syringes and catheters
- Use of antibacterial soap for skin infections
- Reduced usage of antibiotics