Pericarditis is the inflammation of the membrane surrounding your heart. If this membrane — called the pericardium — becomes irritated or swollen, it can cause pain and interfere with how your heart works.
Dignity Health hospitals provide advanced treatment for many heart conditions, including pericarditis, in the Bay Area. Use our online tool to Find a Doctor today.
Recognizing Symptoms of Pericarditis
The most common symptom of pericarditis is a stabbing pain over the front of the chest. You may also feel discomfort in the upper back or shoulder area. The pain of pericarditis often gets better when sitting up or learning forward. Other pericarditis symptoms include coughing, fatigue, and a pounding heartbeat.
These signs of pericarditis can easily be mistaken for a heart attack. If you experience chest pain, do not try to self-diagnose — call 9-1-1 or seek medical assistance immediately.
What Causes Pericarditis?
Sometimes, a viral, bacterial, or fungal infection can cause pericarditis. Other possible causes include heart attack, chest trauma, and autoimmune diseases such as lupus or HIV. Certain medications have also been linked to the condition.
Pericarditis can be acute, which means it starts suddenly and then goes away after a short treatment. Or, it can be chronic, persisting over time and requiring longer periods of healing.
To diagnose pericarditis and help determine its cause, your doctor at Dignity Health will order a series of heart and blood tests. In many cases, however, the cause of pericarditis cannot be found.
Treating & Preventing Pericarditis
The goals of pericarditis treatment and prevention strategies are to relieve symptoms, control any underlying causes, and reduce your risk of complications or recurrence. Untreated, acute pericarditis can become long lasting and you may develop potentially life-threatening complications.
The skilled experts at Dignity Health will consider the severity and suspected cause of your condition when creating your treatment plan. A mild case may require only over-the-counter pain relievers and rest. Chronic or more serious cases may involve prescription medicines or surgery.
Pericarditis seems to affect men between the ages of 20 and 50 more than any other group. However, the condition can occur in anyone, regardless of age.
Heart disease remains the number one cause of death for both men and women. Take our online heart risk assessment and learn more about the treatment and prevention of heart disease at Dignity Health Bay Area hospitals.
Dignity Health provides advanced options for managing heart conditions, including pericarditis, in San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Redwood City.