Endocarditis – Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

What is endocarditis?

The inner lining of the heart is called endocardium. The inflammation of the endocardium is referred to as endocarditis. It is caused by a bacterium and the severity of the infection varies from one patient to another. Pharmaceuticals experts and physicians would recommend drugs like Daptomycin that act against gram positive bacteria to the patient suffering from endocarditis.

What signs characterize endocarditis?

Endocarditis symptoms start out slow and intensify with time. The signs are very common and this is often the reason why many cases of endocarditis go undiagnosed until the severe stages. In fact some people who are suffering from endocarditis experience the same signs as that of pneumonia or flu. The symptoms of endocarditis include:

  • Pale skin
  • Fever and nausea
  • Pain in the joints
  • Lowered appetite
  • Sudden loss in body weight
  • Night sweats

As the condition progresses without being treated, these signs intensify and more severe symptoms set in. These include,

  • Swelling in the limbs
  • Bloated stomach
  • Blood in urine
  • Shortness of breath
  • Increased heartbeat along with an abnormal sound
  • Enlarged spleen
  • Significant weight loss

In addition to these signs, the skin of the patient changes drastically. Red spots (or purple spots in some cases) occur on the fingers and toes. Red spots slowly start to cover the white part of the eyes, on the roof of the mouth and on the chest too. It is important to note that the signs of the disease vary greatly from one patient to another based on the source of the inflammation. Patients who have undergone heart surgery recently must be cautious and alert when these signs are witnessed.

Who is at the risk of endocarditis?

Endocarditis is caused by a type a bacterium that is generally present in the outside environment. When this bacterium is brought into the body through consumption of food or water or through blood cuts, it enters the bloodstream and finally reaches the heart. Endocartitis can be caused by certain species of fungi too. Some of the common pathways through which the bacteria can enter the human body are:

  • Sexual intercourse
  • Poor oral hygiene (includes sharing of tooth brushes, leaving oral wounds unattended)
  • Using a contaminated needle
  • Inappropriate use of catheters
  • Use of contaminated equipment during dental procedures

People who are illicit users of drugs, have multiple sexual partners, practice unsafe sex and pay no attention to their oral hygiene are at the highest risk of endocarditis. Patients who have undergone heart procedures like heart valve surgery are also at a greater risk of the disease. In general, patients with defects in the heart can easily contract the infection.

How is the condition treated?

Once diagnosed, the condition can be treated through the use of appropriate drugs (antibiotics). If the condition was caused by heart valve damage then surgery is required. During the surgery, the damaged heart valves are replaced with artificial valves.

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