Pericarditis—Adult

Definition

Pericarditis is irritation and swelling of the pericardium, which is the thin sac that surrounds the heart. Extra fluid that builds up between the 2 layers of the pericardium restricts the heart’s action.
Pericarditis
pericarditis
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Causes

The cause of pericarditis is often unknown. However, possible causes include:

Risk Factors

A weakened immune system may increase your chance of pericarditis.

Symptoms

Chest pain is a common symptom of pericarditis, especially over the left side or center of the chest. It sometimes spreads to the neck and left shoulder. It is usually a sharp, stabbing pain. Deep breathing or lying down may worsen the pain. Sitting up may lessen it. Other symptoms may include:
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing
  • Fever and chills
  • Pain when swallowing
  • Weakness and fatigue

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. A stethoscope will be used to listen for a grating or rubbing sound in your heart. If the condition is severe, there may be a crackle sound in your lungs. The following tests may be performed:Images of your heart may need to be taken. This can be done with:Your bodily fluid may need to be tested. This can be done with:
  • Blood tests
  • Pericardiocentesis

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