Inflammation of the pericardium, which is a sac-like membrane, is called pericarditis. Pericarditis can be caused due to various medical conditions including viral infection, a pyogenic (pus-producing) infection, tuberculosis, urema, heart attack (myocardial infarction), cardiac injury and rheumatic or collagen vascular disease. There are many other rare factors, such as radiation, which is used to treat cancer in the chest area, syphilis, a fungal infection or a parasitic infection can trigger pericarditis.
The primary symptom of chronic pericarditis is chest pain. It may also be accompanied by tiredness, coughing, and shortness of breath. Severe cases of chronic pericarditis can lead to swelling in the stomach and legs and hypotension (low blood pressure).
The severe pericarditis can lead to two complications— cardiac tamponade and chronic constrictive pericarditis.
• According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood institute, “Cardiac tamponade occurs, if too much fluid collects in the pericardium (the membrane around the heart). The extra fluid puts pressure on the heart, which prevents the heart from properly filling with blood. As a result, less blood leaves the heart and causes a sharp drop in blood pressure. If left untreated, cardiac tamponade can be fatal.”
• Chronic constrictive pericarditis is a rare disease, which develops over time. It may cause scar-like tissue throughout the pericardium. The sac-like structure becomes stiff and doesn’t move properly. Meanwhile, the scarred tissue constricts the heart and prevents it from functioning well.
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