Endocarditis pertains to infection of endocardium, a thin lining of the heart. Infection can occur through micro-organisms that invade your body in any form. Not all the people are prone to develop endocarditis but only people with damaged heart or repaired heart valves would develop this infection. If left untreated for long term, endocarditis can become life threatening. Suitable antibiotics are given to destroy bacterial infection and surgery is the choice only if the heart valves are severely damaged.
Signs of endocardial infection would begin only after a week or two. Initially the person would have flu like symptoms with fever and tiredness. Shortly he would develop high fever with chills, fatigue, loss of weight (unexplained), pain in the joints, bleeding of fingernails, night sweats, persistent cough and pinkish spots on the skin. In severe cases patients may develop complications like heart failure, stroke, and abnormal heart rhythm.
Germs that gain entry into your body can accidentally enter into blood which would then move into your heart damaging heart valves and tissues. Bacteria, fungi and other micro-organisms are the root cause for endocarditis. For some people bacteria present in mouth or throat can enter the blood causing complications. Gum infection or any sexually transmitted infection can also enter into blood. People who are in hospital for long term and using catheters are prone to develop bacterial infection. Infection can also spread through contaminated needles or syringes. Certain types of dental procedures can allow bacteria into your bloodstream.
Risk Factors :
People with healthy heart would not develop endocarditis. You are at risk of developing this infection if you have had earlier infections, if you have undergone hemodialysis or similar procedure, if you have damaged valves in your heart, if you are born with heart defect and if you are using illicit drugs through unsterilized needles. People who have had heart attack earlier, who have undergone bypass surgery, who have mitral valve prolapsed and who are with stent have very low risk for developing endocarditis. In rare cases endocarditis can cause stroke, organ damage and even heart failure if left untreated for long.
Your doctor will collect complete medical history and look for possible symptoms. He may request for several lab tests like blood profile, echocardiogram and ECG testing. This would give an accurate picture of your heart. Further he may order for chest X-ray and CT scan, if necessary.
Antibiotics are the best option for treating any bacterial infection which applies for endocarditis also. Your doctor would prescribe strong doses of antibiotics via intravenous injection. For mild infection you can take antibiotics as oral pills. Depending on the seriousness of the condition, you will be admitted in a clinic for few days until your symptoms have improved. You will need to continue taking antibiotics for some weeks till the infection heals completely.
Surgery is the last option for repairing damaged heart valves due to endocarditis. For many cases the heart valves are repaired and for some valves are replaced with artificial ones made out of animal tissue. Surgery carries some risk and post-operative care is extremely essential for any kind of heart surgery. Surgery is done for patients who develop abscess in their heart due to endocarditis.
Pictures of Endocarditis :
Tips for Prevention :
People with existing heart problems, congenital heart disease and earlier episodes of endocarditis are at high risk of getting endocarditis. They should take antibiotics before any kind of surgery or even dental procedures. This can certainly prevent entry of bacteria or micro-organisms into your blood. Do not use contaminated syringes for piercing skin for tattoos. Practice good dental hygiene and don’t ignore any kind of gum infection.