Atherosclerosis -- hardening and narrowing of the arteries -- gets a lot of bad press, with good reason. This progressive process silently and slowly blocks arteries, putting blood flow at risk.
Atherosclerosis is the usual cause of heart attacks, strokes, and peripheral vascular disease -- what together are called "cardiovascular disease." Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer in America, with more than 800,000 deaths in 2005.
How does atherosclerosis develop? Who gets it, and why? This...
Pericarditis can be acute (occurring suddenly) or chronic (long-standing).
What Are the Symptoms of Pericarditis?
When present, symptoms of pericarditis may include:
Chest pain. This pain is frequently sharp and located in the center of the chest. The pain may radiate to the neck and shoulders, and occasionally, the arms and back. It can be made worse when lying down, coughing, or swallowing and may be relieved by sitting forward.
Increased heart rate.
How Is Pericarditis Diagnosed?
Your doctor can diagnose pericarditis based on:
Electrocardiagram (EKG or ECG) results
Other tests may be performed to determine the cause of pericarditis.
What Is the Treatment for Pericarditis?
Treatment of pericarditis is based on the cause and may include:
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDs) to decrease the pain and inflammation
Steroids, used occasionally for severe attacks
Antibiotics, if the pericarditis is due to infection
Colchicine, particularly if symptoms last for several weeks or occur on a repetitive basis
Most patients recover from pericarditis in two to four weeks.
What Is Constrictive Pericarditis?
Constrictive pericarditis occurs when the pericardium becomes thickened and scarred. This can make it difficult for the heart to expand with blood.
What Are the Symptoms of Constrictive Pericarditis?
The symptoms of constrictive pericarditis are the same as pericarditis, with the addition of:
Shortness of breath
Fatigue (feeling over-tired)
Heart failure symptoms (swelling of legs and feet, unexplained weight gain)
Atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat)
How Is Constrictive Pericarditis Diagnosed?
The same tests used to diagnose pericarditis are used to diagnose constrictive pericarditis. Other diagnostic tests used for constrictive pericarditis include:
How Is Constrictive Pericarditis Treated?
Treatment of constrictive pericarditis may include:
Analgesics and anti-inflammatory agents to treat pain or inflammation
Diuretics to treat heart failure symptoms
Antiarrhythmics to treat any abnormal heart rhythms, such as atrial fibrillation
Pericardiectomy (the surgical removal of the stiff pericardium from the heart)