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Endocarditis - Topic Overview

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What is endocarditis?

Endocarditis is an infection of the heart's valves or inner lining. It occurs when germs get into the bloodstream and settle inside the heart, often on a valve camera.gif. The infection is usually caused by bacteria. In rare cases, it is caused by fungi.

This infection can damage your heart. It needs to be treated right away. If it isn't treated, endocarditis can be deadly.

What increases your risk of endocarditis?

Your risk is higher if you have a problem that affects blood flow through your heart camera.gif. That's because a blood flow problem makes it more likely that bacteria or fungi will attach to heart tissue. Some other things raise your risk too, because they can let bacteria or fungi enter your bloodstream.

You have a higher risk of endocarditis if you have:

Not all heart problems put you at higher risk for endocarditis. You do not have a higher risk if you have had:

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms may appear quickly, within a few days of infection. In other cases, they may develop more slowly. The symptoms will get worse as the bacteria or fungi grow in your heart.

Symptoms may include:

  • Flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, night sweats, and fatigue. These are often the first symptoms.
  • Weight loss.
  • Muscle or joint pain.
  • Lasting cough and shortness of breath.
  • Blood under the fingernails or tiny purple and red spots under the skin.

See your doctor if you have symptoms like these that don't go away, especially if you are at risk for endocarditis.

If endocarditis isn't treated soon, it can lead to more serious problems, such as:

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