Pericarditis – symptoms & causes


This is a swelling and irritation of the pericardium which is the thin saclike membrane surrounding your heart. This condition often causes chest pain and sometimes other symptoms. The sharp pain which is associated with the pericarditis happens when the irritated layers of the pericardium rub against each other.

This condition usually begins suddenly and it does not long last, it is not acute condition. When the symptoms of pericarditis develop more gradually or they persist, then pericarditis is considered as chronic. In the most cases, pericarditis is mild and usually it improves on its own. The treatment for more severe cases can include medications and in rare cases surgery. The early diagnosis and treatment can help to reduce the risk of long – term complications from the pericarditis.



You should know thatit has different classification types which depend on the pattern of symptoms and how long these symptoms last. The acutepericarditis usually lasts less than 3 weeks. The incessant that lasts about 4 – 6 weeks but less than 3 months and this type is continuous type of pericarditis. If the pericarditis happens about 4 – 6 weeks after an episode of acutepericarditis with a symptom – free interval in between, then this type of pericarditis is considered as recurrent. If the symptoms last longer than 3 months, then it is considered as chronic.

The most common symptom of the acutepericarditis is the sharp and stabbing chest pain behind the breastbone or in the left side of your chest. Some people who suffer from acutepericarditis describe their chest pain as dull and achy or pressure – like instead and it varies in the intensity. The pain caused by acutepericarditis can travel into your neck and left shoulder.

This pain often intensifies when you inhale deeply, lie down or cough. Leaning forward and sitting up can help to ease the pain. There are some cases when it is hard to distinguish the pericardial pain from the pain which happens with a heart attack. The chronic pericarditis is usually associated with the chronic inflammation and it can result in fluid around the heart (it is known as pericardial effusion). The chest pain is the most common symptom of chronicpericarditis. You can have some of the following signs and symptoms of it which depends on the type of pericarditis that you have

  • Abdominal or leg swelling
  • Cough
  • You can have an overall sense of fatigue, weakness, or feeling sick
  • Low – grade fever
  • Heart palpitations
  • Shortness of breath when reclining
  • Sharp, piercing chest pain over the center or the left side of the chest, which is generally more intense when breathing in

If you develop new symptoms of chest pain, then you should talk with your doctor as soon as possible.


When it is in normal cases, the 2 – layered pericardial sac which surrounds your heart has a small amount of lubricating fluid. When someone has it, then this sac becomes inflamed and the resulting friction from the inflamed sac is leading to chest pain. In many cases, the cause for it is hard to determine.

There are many cases when doctors are unable to determine a cause or they suspect a viral infection. Also, this condition can develop shortly after a major heart attack due to the irritation of the underlying damaged heart muscle. A delayed form of it can happen weeks after a heart surgery or heart attack. Dressler’s syndrome is other name for delayed it. Also, this syndrome is known by other names, such as post – cardiac injury syndrome, post – myocardial infartcion syndrome and postpericardiotomy syndrome.

Here are other causes

Trauma: The injury to your chest or head can happen as a result of a motor vehicle or other accident.

Systemic inflammatory disorders: These disorders can include rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

Other health disorders: These disorders can include cancer, tuberculosis, AIDS and kidney failure.

Certain medications: There are some medications which can cause it but this is not usual case.


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