The pericardium forms a sack in which the heart sits. There is usually a thin layer of liquid between the heart and the pericardial sack. Pericarditis is a benign inflammation of the pericardium and the fluid space between the heart and the pericardial membrane. It occurs principally in men between the ages of 20 and 50. Excess fluid may within the pericardial sack. Chronic changes in the pericardium may occur leading to constrictive pericarditis. This form of pericarditis can limit the functional capacity of the heart.
Causes of Pericarditis, Acute
Acute pericarditis can be the result of viral or bacterial infections. Other infections, particularly tuberculosis or fungal infections, can produce thickening and scarring of the pericardium and constrictive pericarditis. Rheumatic fever can produce acute pericarditis. Many other disorders develop pericarditis as a additional symptom. These disorders include such things as systemic lupus erythematosis and chronic kidney failure. Pericarditis can develop as a complication of a heart attack, a complication of heart surgery and as a complication of chest injuries or surgery. Cancer may spread to the pericardium from other sites. Certain drugs and radiation treatment may produce pericarditis.
Signs and Symptoms of Pericarditis, Acute
Acute pericarditis produces chest pain. Like a heart attack, the pain may radiate into the neck or left arm. At times, the pain may radiate into the back or upper abdomen. Typically, the pain worsens with movement and eases when sitting up or leaning forward. Acute pericarditis can lead to rapid breathing, shortness of breath and cough. Fever and chills may develop. Constrictive pericarditis can limit the ability of the heart to expand and fill with blood. This can lead to generalized weakness, exercise intolerance and marked fatigue. In addition, acute pericarditis can lead to the development of large quantities of fluid within the pericardial sac. This fluid, like constrictive pericarditis, can limit the ability of the heart to function.
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Medical Content Last Updated on 07/12/2008
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