Pericarditis is a heart condition that occurs when the sac that surrounds the heart, called the pericardium, becomes inflamed. The inflammation may cause chest pain as well as other symptoms. It can be acute, with symptoms coming on suddenly, or chronic, coming on gradually and lasting for a long time. Many times, pericarditis is mild and does not require treatment. However, it can be more severe and require medication or even surgery.
The pericardium is comprised of a few layers. Pericarditis occurs when the layers become swollen. The swelling of the layers leaves less room for movement between them, so they may rub together. When they do, the person may experience sharp chest pain. The pain can be so severe that the person may think they are having a heart attack.
Many times, doctors aren’t able to find the cause of pericarditis. They may refer to the condition as idiopathic (having an unknown cause) pericarditis. They may also call it viral pericarditis, assuming that it is caused by a virus attacking the body. However, pericarditis can also occur because of other conditions.
Some other possible causes of pericarditis are:
Heart Attack or Surgery: The layers of the pericardium can become irritated because of damage to the heart caused by a heart attack. Having heart surgery may also cause the pericardium to become inflamed.
Inflammatory Disorders: Conditions that cause systemic inflammation, like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, may also cause inflammation in the pericardium.
Medications: Rarely, certain medications may cause pericarditis as a side effect.
Trauma: If the chest or heart have been injured, such as in a car accident, pericarditis may occur.
Other Conditions: Some other medical conditions can cause pericarditis, too, including cancer, AIDS, kidney failure, and tuberculosis.
Not everyone with pericarditis will experience the same symptoms. Some possible symptoms are:
- Sharp chest pain that occurs in the center of the chest or off to the left side. The pain is often worse when the person breathes in.
- Trouble breathing while laying down or reclining.
- Heart palpitations.
- A low fever.
- Feeling weak, tired, or ill.
- Swelling in the abdomen or legs.
If your aging relative develops pericarditis, elderly care can help them while they recover. An elderly care provider can remind the older adult to take medications prescribed to relieve symptoms and treat the underlying cause. An elderly care provider can also allow the senior to rest while they manage household chores, such as cleaning, doing dishes, and preparing meals. Elderly care providers can also monitor the older adult for changes in symptoms that may indicate a need for additional medical care.
If you or an aging loved-one are considering hiring Homecare in Headland, AL, please contact the caring staff at Wiregrass HomeCare today. Call us at 334-539-5900.