What is endocarditis?
The existence of an infection and inflammation in the inner lining of the heart (endocardium) is known as endocarditis. The condition is serious and has the potential to damage one’s heart permanently if left untreated. It occurs mostly in adults and is rarely found in children.
There are two types of endocarditis:
- Infective: This is caused primarily due to a bacterial or fungal infection.
- Non-infective: This type is caused due to conditions like hypoxia, cancer, autoimmune diseases, uraemia, TB, etc.
Endocarditis symptoms vary depending on the age of the patient, general health, cause, and severity of the condition. The signs of endocarditis develop slowly and may even change over time. The common symptoms include:
- Constant muscular or chest pain.
- New or different murmurs of the heart.
- Bleeding under the nails of the fingers or the toes.
- Shortness of breath.
- Small & painful red or purple lumps on the fingers or toes.
- Small & painless flat spot-like occurrences on the sole of the feet or palms.
- Small broken blood vessel spots under the nails, in the white of the eyes, chest, on the roof of the mouth, etc.
- Unexplained weight loss.
- Constant weakness and fatigue.
- Blood in the urine.
- Heavy sweating including night sweats.
- Swelling in the limbs and the abdomen.
Some of these symptoms are experienced by almost everyone from time to time. However, when these continue occurring, immediate medical attention is advised.
Who is at risk?
Endocarditis risk factors put a certain set of people more at a risk of developing this issue than the others. Some of the most common risk categories are people who:
- Has had a history of heart conditions.
- Has undergone a heart-related procedure like heart replacement surgery or has received an artificial heart valve or pacemaker.
- Is a regular receiver of intravenous drugs.
- Has recovered from a bacteria-related illness like meningitis, pneumonia, etc.
- Is suffering from any autoimmune diseases like lupus, rheumatoid fever, etc.
- Falls in the senior age group in which degenerated heart valves are common.
Endocarditis is mainly caused due to bacteria and fungi entering one’s bloodstream that gets attached to the damaged heart tissues or valves. Some of the common endocarditis causes are:
- Infections and disorders: Skin sores, gum diseases, sexually transmitted infections, and inflammatory bowel diseases are found to give germs entry into one’s bloodstream.
- Oral activities: Bleeding gums while brushing teeth let bacteria into your bloodstream.
- Use of unclean needles: Infected and unsanitised needles used for body piercings, tattoos, or while using IV drugs like cocaine, etc., may cause endocarditis.
- Catheters: When a catheter is put for a long time in your body, bacteria may develop on its surface and enter the body.
- Dental procedures: Dental treatments where your gums are cut and unsanitised equipment are used, may be a cause of endocarditis.
How is endocarditis diagnosed?
Endocarditis diagnosis is usually based on a combination of assessments that depend on your medical history, symptoms, and the condition’s severity. Tests like these help in a positive diagnosis:
- Blood test: The most common endocarditis test, this is done to detect the presence of bacteria or fungi in the bloodstream.
- Echocardiogram: This test helps the cardiologist in getting a closer and better image of your heart and valves to look for signs of infections or damage.
- ECG: This test is done to assess your heart’s electrical activity and the variations in it.
- Chest X-Ray: An X-Ray is done to closely see any enlargement in the heart or spreading of bacterial infections to the lungs.
- CT Scan: This is also quite an effective test to see if the infection has spread to your lungs or brains from your heart area.
How is endocarditis treated?
Endocarditis treatment depends on the severity and stage of the condition and the age of the patient. The common lines of treatment include:
- Antibiotics: This treatment, lasting for around 2-6 weeks, usually gives positive results. This involves administering antibiotics or antifungal medicines intravenously.
- Surgery: If the condition has resulted in severe damage to the heart and when the patient doesn’t respond to antibiotic medicines, surgery may be conducted to repair the damaged valves or replace them with artificial ones.
Untreated endocarditis is quite a dangerous condition and may infect other organs, cause arrhythmia, and in the worst case cause heart failure. With our platform Care.fit, it is easy to access the best cardiologists in the country at the click of a button and even get multiple consultations from the comfort of your house. Log on to our website or download the mobile application to known more about us.
How can endocarditis be prevented?
Endocarditis prevention can be done using several ways like:
- Paying special attention to your dental health like flossing, brushing, and making dental appointments regularly.
- Avoiding procedures that may lead to skin infections like tattooing, piercing, using drugs, etc.
- Awareness of the symptoms of endocarditis, especially if you fall in the high-risk category.