Infections can happen in the heart too, know all about this condition from Cardiologist Dr Dora exclusively on Onlymyhealth
Heart infection is defined by infection of cardiac tissue by any infecting organism, i.e. virus, bacteria or fungus. The heart consists of endocardium, myocardium and pericardium. To understand the topic better here’s all you need to know about Heart Infection from Cardiologist Dr Santosh Kumar Dora, Senior Cardiologist, Asian Heart Institute, Mumbai.
Ever wondered how the heart can function and in what all ways it can affect the body? One such heart ailment that is lesser to known to all is the heart infection. Yes, infections can take place in the heart too. The heart consists of the endocardium, which is the innermost lining of the heart, which also includes heart valves and subvalvular apparatus. The myocardium is the muscular part of the heart and consists of the main bulk of heart tissue, which helps in the heart’s contraction and relaxation.
What Is Heart Infection?
Pericardium is the outermost layer of the heart, which contains pericardial fluid. It helps lubricate the heart, prevents friction during cardiac movement and helps fix the heart in its anatomical position. Infection of the endocardium is known as endocarditis. The most common organism infecting the endocardium is bacteria and sometimes fungus. Cardiac valves, which are abnormal in nature, i.e. bicuspid aortic valve, rheumatic valve etc. are prone to infection leading to endocarditis. Infection of the myocardium is known as myocarditis. The most common organism infecting myocardium is the virus. Nowadays, there are several cases of myocarditis due to covid-19 virus has been reported. Infection of the pericardium is known as pericarditis. The most common organism infecting pericardium in India is tuberculosis. Virus also infects pericardium in many cases leading to viral pericarditis.
How Is Heart Attack Different From Heart attack?
What is Heart attack? Heart attack is a situation when there is a complete cut off of blood supply to one of the arteries supplying blood to the heart muscle. This happens due to clot formation over an ulcerated atheromatous plaque in the coronary arteries. This usually leads to severe chest pain. Sometimes there may be an atypical presentation of heart attack i.e. severe sweating, vomiting, back pain, severe breathlessness etc. Heart attack needs immediate attention and management, so that heart muscles can be saved. Heart attack, if remains untreated, can lead to severe damage to the heart muscle and sometimes cardiac arrest (sudden cardiac death due to absence of heart contraction).
Symptoms of Heart Infection
Endocarditis: In this, it leads to fever. The patient looks toxic. Pulse rate remains high. Damage to the heart valve leads to regurgitation. It leads to dilatation of the heart and increases lung pressure. Increased pressure on the lungs leads to fluid accumulation in the lungs which gives rise to breathlessness. Initially, breathlessness may be present during exertion only. Subsequently, it is present even at rest.
Myocarditis: In this infection type, the patient witnesses fever and tachycardia. The patient looks toxic. There is a decrease in pumping function, and that leads to dilatation of heart chambers. Patients will have symptoms of palpitation, breathlessness and sometimes chest pain.
Pericarditis: In pericarditis, the patient can get fever and tachycardia. The patient looks toxic. In the long run it can lead to constrictive pericarditis, a situation which does not allow the heart to expand properly. Once constriction develops, the patient presents with breathlessness and swelling due to fluid accumulation all over the body, predominantly in the legs.
Preventive Measure To Avoid Heart Infection?
As we understand the valve infection occurs mainly over and above an abnormal valve, a lot of precaution needs to be taken once a person knows that he has an abnormal valve. Some of the precautions are listed below:
- He has to take infective endocarditis prophylaxis (antibiotic therapy during the perioperative period) during any invasive procedure including dental and ENT procedures.
- He should do a periodic dental and ENT checkup to keep these areas free of any infection, as this is the commonest cause for valve infection.
- He should disclose to the doctor about his deformed valve before any invasive procedure. It is a common practice for the doctor also to rule out any cardiac disorder prior to an invasive procedure.
- Childhood vaccinations are must to prevent common bacterial, tubercular and viral infection, which can infect the heart as well. For adults, routine seasonal flu vaccines can protect virus-related heart muscle infection.
During the present COVID-19 pandemic, it has been seen that COVID-19 virus also affects the heart muscle in many patients. Once COVID-19 vaccine is available, it is advisable for mass vaccination for everybody to prevent multiorgan dysfunction, which involves the heart as well.
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