Symptoms Of Endocarditis Disease: Causes & Treatment Options

Endocarditis is infection of the inner lining of the chambers of the heart and heart valves (the lining is called the endocardium).

The condition develops when bacteria, fungi or other microbes from other parts of your body, spread through the blood and get lodged to the weak and damaged sections in the heart. Left untreated, endocarditis impairs and destroys the valves of the heart and sets off life threatening complications.

People at maximum risk of developing endocarditis typically have impaired heart valves, prosthetic heart valves or some other heart defect. On the other hand, perfectly healthy individuals have also known to develop endocarditis.

Common signs and symptoms of endocarditis include:

  • Fever with chills
  • Exhaustion
  • Night sweats
  • Breathlessness
  • A new or changed heart murmur.
  • Pain in all joints and muscles.
  • Pain in the chest when you breathe.
  • Swelling in your legs or abdomen.

What Are The Causes Of Endocarditis?

Endocarditis occurs when microbes gain entry in to the bloodstream, travel to the heart, and fasten on to damaged heart tissue and defective valves. By and large, bacteria are the chief cause.

Bacteria, fungi or other germs that cause endocarditis might enter your bloodstream through:

  • Oral activity: When you brush your teeth, or if something causes the gums to bleed, bacteria enter your bloodstream, more so, if you do not floss daily.
  • An infection: Bacteria can spread from an infected site anywhere in the body, travel through the blood and reach the heart.
  • Catheters: If you have had a catheter to inject or get rid of fluid from the body, and in case it has been kept there for a protracted period of time, infection can occur.
  • Intravenous illicit drug: Contaminated needles spread infection easily.
  • Dental procedures: Some dental procedures can cut the gums and permit bacteria to gain entry in to the blood and reach the heart.

Treatment Options For Endocarditis

Most cases of endocarditis are managed with antibiotics successfully. Occasionally, surgical intervention becomes necessary to repair impaired heart valves as well to clean up any remaining signs of the infection.

Your doctor will prescribe high doses of intravenous antibiotics in the hospital. A blood culture test will be done to identify the microbe causing the infection. Based upon the test results, your physician will select the most suitable antibiotic to battle the infection.

You may have to stay for a week in the hospital. You need to take antibiotics for a couple of weeks so that the infection clears up. Once the symptoms have abated, you can leave the hospital and continue intravenous antibiotic therapy at home. Follow up visits are crucial though.

Most importantly, when at home, and you perceive that the symptoms are coming back on or existent symptoms are worsening, you need to call the doctor instantaneously. Furthermore, if you develop diarrhea, a rash, or joint pains, tell your doctor immediately. These may be an indication of a reaction to the antibiotic.

In case of swelling in your legs, ankles or feet or breathlessness after you start antibiotic treatment, visit the doctor right away. These indicate heart failure.

If the infection has damaged the valves of the heart, you may have symptoms and complications even after the treatment. Surgical intervention is necessary to deal with unrelenting infections or to substitute an impaired valve. Surgery is required for the management of fungal endocarditis.

Your surgeon may either repair the impaired valve or substitute it with a prosthetic one made of pig, cow or human heart tissue or a synthetic material.