DefinitionPericarditis 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.
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CausesThe cause of pericarditis is often unknown. However, possible causes include:
- Viral, bacterial, or fungal infection
- Heart attack
- Inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or systemic lupus erythematosus
- Cancer that has spread from a tumor near the heart
- Kidney failure
- Injury or surgery affecting the chest, esophagus, or heart
- Radiation treatment
- Certain medications used to suppress the immune system
Risk FactorsA weakened immune system may increase your chance of pericarditis.
SymptomsChest 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
- Fever and chills
- Pain when swallowing
- Weakness and fatigue
DiagnosisThe 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:
- Blood tests
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