Are you experiencing fevers, chills, and fatigue, along with shortness of breath and tenderness in your stomach area? It may not be the flu. It could be a serious condition called endocarditis. Endocarditis is an infection of the inner lining of your heart and can occur when bacteria enter another part of your body and spread to your heart. Without prompt medical assistance, the infection can severely damage your heart, leading to life-threatening complications like sepsis.
People with healthy hearts rarely get endocarditis. However, if you have damaged heart valves, an artificial heart, or other heart problems, you are more at risk. It is important that you know the signs and symptoms of endocarditis so you can be put on alert and seek treatment right away. Symptoms of endocarditis include…
- Fever and chills
- Heart murmur
- Aching joints
- Night sweats
- Persistent cough
- Swelling in feet, legs, or abdomen
- Unexplained weight loss
- Blood in the urine
- Large or tender lymph nodes
Endocarditis causes bacteria and other cells to collect into clumps inside your heart around the infection site. These groups of cells can break off and travel elsewhere to your body, causing stroke or organ damage. If left untreated, endocarditis can begin to damage your heart valves, requiring your heart to pump harder. This extra work can cause inflammation, inner lining damage, and heart failure. If you believe you may have endocarditis, you need to consult with a heart specialist right away. If treatment is started early, you have a much better chance of avoiding dangerous complications.
Depending on when you are diagnosed, treatment may vary. Generally, treatment involves either oral or IV antibiotics. You may also be prescribed other medications for your existing heart issues or for any other complications that have occurred. If you have a question about the treatment options you have in your particular case, it is best to talk with your heart specialist. Always update your specialist with any health problems you are experiencing. Treating endocarditis takes a team effort. It is important that the emergency staff and your specialist are all on the same page. If after reading this you believe you may have endocarditis, seek medical attention right away.