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Endocarditis - Topic Overview

If you have certain heart conditions, getting endocarditis is even more dangerous for you. These heart conditions include:

If you have any of these heart conditions, you may need to take antibiotics before you have certain dental and surgical procedures. The antibiotics lower your risk of getting endocarditis. If you do not have these conditions, antibiotics are not likely to help you.

Procedures that may require antibiotics include:

  • Certain dental work or dental surgery.
  • Lung surgery.
  • Surgery on infected skin, bone, or muscle tissue.
  • Certain medical procedures, such as a biopsy.

Practicing good oral hygiene is especially important to prevent endocarditis if you are at risk.

Your doctor can give you a card to carry in your wallet. The card states that you may need preventive antibiotics before certain procedures.

The symptoms of endocarditis progress as the bacteria or fungi grow in your heart. Vague, flu-like symptoms, such as a low-grade fever and fatigue, often occur first. Most people with endocarditis begin to have symptoms within 2 weeks after becoming infected with bacteria or fungi.

But a powerful strain of bacteria may cause symptoms to appear much faster, within a few days.

Symptoms include:

  • Chills and fever.
  • Fatigue.
  • Weight loss.
  • Night sweats.
  • Painful joints.
  • Persistent cough and shortness of breath.
  • Bleeding under the fingernails.
  • Tiny purple and red spots under the skin.

Although symptoms are vague and may not seem worth telling your doctor about, if they don't go away or if you know you are at risk for endocarditis, contact your doctor.

If endocarditis is not treated, the bacteria that cause endocarditis can form growths on or around the heart valves. The growths prevent the heart valves from opening and closing properly. This interrupts the normal blood flow through the valves and interferes with the heart's pumping action. Blood can leak backwards instead of being pumped forward. Over time, heart failure can develop, because your heart may not be able to pump enough blood to meet your body's needs.

Endocarditis can also cause other problems, including:

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