Endocarditis is the condition in which there is an inflammatory reaction involving the lining of the heart, particularly the heart valves. It is usually caused by an infection. The damaged portions of the heart or heart valves can accumulate clumps of bacteria or blood clots. The bacteria or blood clots can become dislodged and float into small blood vessels where they obstruct them. When this occurs in the brain a stroke can occur. Most cases of infectious endocarditis are chronic in nature. They frequently develop over a periods of weeks or months. Vague complaints care common, such as fatigue, weakness or joint pain. Occasionally, acute symptoms develop, particularly if there is disruption or failure of one of the heart valves.
Causes of Endocarditis
Infectious endocarditis is caused by bacteria or fungi that enter the blood and infect the valves and heart lining. People who have underlying damage to their heart valves, such as people that have had Rheumatic fever, are at increased risk. People that use intravenous drugs or have indwelling catheters placed into them by their doctors are at increased risk, In each of these latter two examples, bacteria can directly gain access to the blood stream.
Signs and Symptoms of Endocarditis
Since the disorder is chronic, the symptoms typically are generalized and not also referable to the heart. They include fatigue, fever, night sweats and joint pain. Weight loss can occur. It material from the heart is dislodged into the circulatory system, abscesses can form where the bacteria are deposited. Certain organs, such as the brain, can be subject to strokes due to compromised blood flow. Acute problems with endocarditis are associated with more severe fever and chills. Rapid or irregular heart rates can occur, especially if there is damage to one of the heart's valves. In addition, severe damage to a heart valve will prevent the heart from functioning normally. This can produce congestive heart failure. Symptoms may then include worsening shortness of breath, difficulty breathing when lying down, edema of the legs and abdomen and chest discomfort.
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Medical Content Last Updated on 07/12/2008
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