Pericarditis - Topic Overview
What is pericarditis?
Pericarditis is swelling
and irritation of the
pericardium, which is the sac that surrounds your
Pericarditis usually doesn't cause serious problems. Most people get
better in 7 to 10 days. When there are problems, they may include:
- A buildup of fluid in the pericardial sac
(pericardial effusion ).
- Sudden pressure on the heart and sudden
difficulty pumping enough blood (called
cardiac tamponade). This can be caused by the weight
and pressure of the fluid buildup if it happens quickly.
- Constrictive pericarditis, which can occur when pericarditis comes back or becomes a longer-term problem. The sac around the
heart gets thick and stiff. This makes it harder for the heart to pump blood.
What causes pericarditis?
Many things can cause pericarditis, including:
In many cases, the cause is not known.
What are the symptoms?
The main symptom is a
sharp pain in the center or left side of your chest. The pain may spread to the shoulder blade. For some people, this pain is dull
instead of sharp. It may be worse when you lie down or take a deep
The pain lasts for hours or days and doesn't get better
when you rest. It's different from a type of chest pain called
angina, which only lasts a short time and usually gets
better with rest.
Other symptoms may include a mild fever,
weakness, feeling very tired, coughing, hiccups, and muscle aches.
Pericarditis usually isn't dangerous. But your chest pain could be
caused by something more serious, like a
heart attack. Getting diagnosed and treated early
can help keep pericarditis from leading to other problems. That's why you
should call a doctor right away if you have any kind of sudden chest