Your heart is a powerful organ, which promotes blood supply to all parts of your body.
Nature has developed a two-layer sac, in order to protect this vital pump from injury and infection. This membrane is called pericardium. It encloses your heart and the bases of big vessels, connected to it.
Internal (visceral) layer is located near the heart surface, while the outer (parietal) pericardium fastens to the sternum, diaphragm and ribs.
Besides protection, the pericardium holds your heart in stable position and avoids its excessive dilating.
The space between two pericardial sheets normally contains nearly 20-50 ml of fluid in order to prevent friction.
It's possible that pericardium may become inflamed and swollen. Doctors call this condition pericarditis.
If this trouble occurs quickly and lasts less than three weeks, pericarditis is considered as acute disease.
Sometimes inflammation may develop gradually, causing chronic pericarditis. Healthcare specialist diagnose this form of disease, if swelling lasts three months or longer.
There is also so-called incessant pericarditis, when a person experiences continuous symptoms for four or six weeks, but no more than three months.
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Chronic inflammation in the pericardium may lead to accumulation of extra fluid around your heart (pericardial effusion).
Most people with pericarditis complain of sharp pain in the center or left side of the chest that becomes worse when inhaling. Pain may radiate into the neck and left shoulder, being disguised as the heart attack.
Other common symptoms include heart palpitations, mild fever, nausea, breathlessness and general weakness.
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It's often really difficult to determine the main cause of pericarditis.
In most cases, specialists relate this issue to viral or bacterial infection. However it's not uncommon that pericarditis happens as a result of trauma, heart attack, myocarditis, autoimmune processes and cancer.
All these things sound really scary, aren’t they?
But we have good news for you! Nowadays medical professionals know, how to deal with pericarditis effectively. Here are the most helpful methods:
#1. Rest – vigorous activity may trigger unpleasant symptoms of pericarditis. That’s why it’s better to avoid strenuous exercises and to have a rest, till pericarditis will be improved.
#2. Painkillers – aspirin and ibuprofen are the most popular over-the-counter medications, used to relieve pain and reduce inflammation, induced by pericarditis.
#3. Colchicine – this prescription medicine can fight off inflammation and decrease pericarditis-related symptoms. But it can be unsafe for individuals with concomitant health problems and those, who take certain medications.
#4. Steroids – your doctor may recommend you take prednisone or other corticosteroid drug, if your symptoms haven’t been improved with OTC medicines and colchicine.
#5. Antibiotics – if tests and exams show that the pericarditis is caused by bacterial infection, you’ll get antibiotics and drainage.
#6. Surgery – in some cases pericarditis may result in serious complication, called cardiac tamponade. This requires pericardiocentesis – a procedure, performed to remove excessive fluid from pericardial pace. Another surgical method is pericardiectomy, used to remove the whole pericardium in the case of constrictive pericarditis. In this type of disorder, two-folds sac becomes rigid and interferes with heart functioning.
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