The endocardium is the inner lining of the heart muscle. Endocarditis is an infection of this lining and the heart valves.
Causes of endocarditis include:
- Bacterial infection, which is the most common cause
- Viral or fungal infection
- Medical conditions that result in blood clotting too easily, causing a noninfectious form
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Factors that increase your risk of getting endocarditis include:
- Having an artificial heart valve
- History of endocarditis
- History of rheumatic fever, which can damage heart valves
- Heart defects
- Enlarged heart
- Mitral valve prolapse
- History of IV drug use
- Recent procedures that can lead to bacterial endocarditis, including:
Symptoms of endocarditis include:
- Fever, chills
- Weakness, low energy
- Sweatiness, especially at night
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of appetite, weight loss
- Chest pain
- Abdominal pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Painful red bumps on the fingers and toes
- Purple dots on the whites of the eyes, under the fingernails, and over the collarbone
- Painful red patches on the fingers, palms, and soles
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. The doctor will check your heart for unusual heart sounds. These are called heart murmurs.
- Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with blood tests.
- Your heart may be examined. This can be done with echocardiogram.
Treatment may include:
- Antibiotics—given through your veins for up to 4-8 weeks
- Surgery—to repair or replace the valve if it is severely damaged or has caused heart failure
If you have a high risk of infection:
- You may need to take antibiotics before certain dental or medical procedures.
- Talk to your dentist or doctor before the procedure.
The American Heart Association guidelines recommend that preventive antibiotic therapy should be considered for individuals with the following cardiac conditions:
- Various forms of congenital heart disease—heart defects
- Artificial heart valves
- History of endocarditis
- Heart transplant recipients who have developed valve disease
Avoiding illegal IV drugs will also decrease your risk of infection.
- Michael J. Fucci, DO
- Reviewed: 12/2013
- Updated: 01/14/2014
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