Heart Infections: Unraveling Causes, Symptoms, And Effective Treatments

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Do you experience frequent chest pain, nausea, or muscle aches? You might want to get your infections checked for infections. Heart infections are lethal and life-threatening. The symptoms may seem common to a layman, but the infection can stop the core organ of your human body. Be it a viral infection, bacterial infection, or fungal infection, it is dangerous for your heart.

Four types of heart infections can threaten your heart: heart valves, heart muscles, the inner lining of the heart, and the outer membrane of the heart. In this blog, we are going to dive deep into these heart infections and explore their symptoms, causes, and treatments. So, if you are experiencing the symptoms of a heart infection or know someone who is, then this blog is for you.

Causes Of Heart Infections

As the heart functions with blood and oxygen in your system, an infection in the heart could be because of these sources too. An infection in the fluids traveling through your body to the heart can enter the powerhouse. If the infection reaches the above four regions of the heart, it could be dangerous.

Causes Of Heart Infections

Here are the common and rare causes of heart infection one can have:

  • If you have had heart surgery recently
  • If you are suffering from HIV/AIDS
  • If you have been experiencing respiratory problems
  • Recent dental procedures that may be exposed to bacteria
  • Gastrointestinal infection
  • Use of recreational drugs
  • Use of infected catheters
  • Use of shared needles or syringes
  • If you have had chest surgery
  • If your kidney is not functioning properly
  • If you have been exposed to viral infection like SARS-CoV-2 or Hepatitis C
  • If you are suffering from Rheumatoid arthritis
  • If you have come in contact with a parasite
  • If you have an allergic reaction to cancer drugs
  • If you have had radiation therapy recently

Types Of Heart Infections

We understand that heart infections can take place in the inner lining of the heart, heart muscles, valves, and sacs of the heart. Let us understand the types and symptoms of heart infections.

Endocarditis

Bacteria cause inflammation in the inner lining of your heart (endocardium). The overgrowth of bacteria in your body can lead to endocarditis. When the bacteria enter your blood and flow through the body, it can reach your heart and attach itself. It is like one rotten flower polluting the whole plant and there is no going back.

This infection is built up from other health conditions and shows symptoms later which is why these go undiagnosed for a long period. The main cause of endocarditis is poor oral hygiene and or skin infections. Fungi is also a rare cause of endocarditis.

The symptoms of endocarditis can be one of the following:

  • High fever
  • Slow heartbeat
  • Muscle and joint pains
  • You don’t feel hungry anymore or you lose your appetite fast
  • There is blood in the urine
  • Fuller feeling in the left part of your abdomen
  • Shortness of breath
  • Frequent coughing
  • Purple spots below the skin or toes
  • Enlarged spleen
  • Unexplained weight loss

Also Read: Gastrointestinal Diseases

Myocarditis

The inflammation caused in the heart muscles is called myocarditis. This infection makes it difficult for your heart to pump blood and is common in every 10-20 people in a group of 10,000. It is caused by a viral infection which can be flu, herpes, COVID-19, Adenovirus, Parvovirus B19, or autoimmune diseases. 

This infection can get to you at any age, and if you are a heavy drinker then you are at risk. Medications for your heart, weight loss, antidepressants, and diuretics, can also play a role in stimulating this infection.

The common symptoms of myocarditis are:

  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Frequent chest pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Feeling faint all the time
  • Weakness in your bones
  • Abnormal heartbeat
  • Swollen feet
  • No appetite
  • Not being able to exercise

Pericarditis

The infection in the outer lining or the sac holding your heart is called pericarditis. When pericardium is exposed to viruses, bacteria, parasites, or fungi, it swells up and leads to chest pain. This inflammation has recently increased its incidence and is further branched out to various heart conditions.

The non-infectious cause of pericarditis is heart surgery or attack. Tumors, Autoimmune diseases, radiation therapy, metabolic disorders, kidney failure, and familial Mediterranean fever can also cause pericarditis.

The symptoms of pericarditis include:

  • Dry cough
  • Difficulty in breathing when lying down
  • High fever
  • Swelling of feet, ankles, or legs
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness all over the body
  • Chest pain
  • Shooting pain in arms, shoulders, jaw, or neck

Treatment Of Heart Infections

Healthcare providers will diagnose the infections in your heart and then treat it for betterment. If the case is mild, then there are chances that the body will heal itself. But if the case is complicated then doctors may prescribe you for:

Medications

Antibiotics, antifungal medications, and anti-inflammatory medicines are used to tackle the inflammation in the heart. Medicines for heart conditions, rheumatoid arthritis, corticosteroids, blood pressure, and NSAIDs are also used to treat heart infections.

Surgery

When your heart fails and is no longer functional to pump blood, doctors may recommend planting an LVAD (Left ventricular assist device), pacemaker, or donor heart. Doctors may also recommend draining the excess fluid in the outer lining of the heart as a last resort. Recovery from the surgery will take time and requires a set of Do’s and Don'ts for the rest of your life.

Read More: Blood Clotting Disorders: Types, Signs and Treatment

Conclusion

Heart Infections can be tricky and take a prolonged period to fully recover. However, you can prevent these infections by practicing good oral hygiene practices and avoiding germs in an open wound. Stay updated on the vaccines for battling the viruses when they come in contact. Avoid going to places with tick-infected areas or people with viral infections.

Maintain your body weight with healthy and nutritious food and wash your hands before you eat your meals. Have a detailed conversation with the healthcare provider for full recovery and prevention of getting infected. So, take care of your dental problems and stay safe!

References

  • Farmakis D, Parissis J, Karavidas A et al (2015) In-hospital management of acute heart failure: practical recommendations and future perspectives. Int J Cardiol 201:231–236. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijcard.2015.08.030
  • McDonagh TA, Metra M, Adamo M, Gardner RS, Baumbach A, Bohm M et al (2021) 2021 ESC Guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic heart failure. Eur Heart J 42(36):3599–3726 PubMed 

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Dr. David G Kiely is a distinguished Medical Reviewer and former General Medicine Consultant with a wealth of experience in the field. Dr. Kiely's notable career as a General Medicine Consultant highlights his significant contributions to the medical field.

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