Your heart is surrounded by a sac or membrane called the pericardium. Pericarditis is swelling or irritation of the membrane.
It’s important to treat pericarditis right away. Immediate treatment can rule out other conditions, like a heart attack. Doctors also need to treat the underlying cause, which may reduce the risk of long-term effects.
At Aurora Health Care, our cardiac experts are available at 15 locations throughout Wisconsin and northern Illinois to help you identify and treat heart conditions like pericarditis. We have the expertise and the technology to quickly diagnose your condition and help you feel better, fast.
The primary symptom of pericarditis is sharp, stabbing chest pain. You may find that:
In some people, the chest pain may feel like a heart attack. In these cases, call 911.
Other pericarditis symptoms may include:
Pericarditis can affect people of all ages, but men ages 20 to 50 are more likely to develop it.
In many cases, the cause of pericarditis remains unknown. However, some factors are known to trigger pericarditis:
Your doctor will diagnose pericarditis based on a physical exam and your medical history.
To confirm the diagnosis, we may recommend certain tests:
Learn more about heart and vascular diagnosis and testing at Aurora.
Many cases of pericarditis are mild and clear up fairly easily. We may recommend rest and medication for pain and inflammation, such as aspirin or ibuprofen. Your doctor may also prescribe an antibiotic or antifungal medication.
If initial treatment does not heal the pericarditis, or if the condition is more advanced, you may need other care. This treatment may include:
Pericarditis can occur repeatedly over many years. Chronic inflammation of the pericardium can cause scarring, a condition known as constrictive pericarditis.
Constrictive pericarditis can cause the pericardium’s layers to fuse together. This change restricts the heart from expanding as it fills with blood, causing heart failure symptoms. Diuretics (sometimes called water pills) may be prescribed to relieve these symptoms.