Pericarditis is defined as inflammation of the pericardium. Generally, the condition is acute since it arises abruptly and can last for several months. It eventually settles after 3 months but episodes can come and go for years.
If diagnosed with the condition, the membrane bordering the heart is reddened and swollen. Oftentimes, there is excess fluid in the space amidst the pericardial layers. The condition can affect individuals of all ages but prevalent among men aged 16-65 years.
What are the signs?
An individual with pericarditis usually experiences chest pain that:
- Feels like stabbing and sharp
- Worsens while swallowing, coughing, lying flat or taking in deep breaths
- Feels better if sitting up and leaning forward
In most cases, the individual has the need to bend over or hold his/her chest just to breathe in a comfortable manner.
Other symptoms that might be present include dry cough, difficulty breathing when lying down and fatigue or anxiety.
Management of pericarditis
The treatment for an acute case of pericarditis might include drugs for the inflammation and pain. Depending on the root cause of the condition, an antifungal drug or antibiotic might be needed.
For severe symptoms that last longer than 2 weeks or clears up but returns, an anti-inflammatory medication specifically colchicine might be prescribed by the doctor.
If the individual has a chronic or recurrent case, he/she might be required to use NSAIDs or colchicine for several years even if he/she already feels better.
In some cases, the doctor might also discuss about treatment that involves steroids or other drugs such as IV human immunoglobulins or azathioprine.