Pericarditis: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention, & - Healthroid

Pericarditis: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention, & More

Mayank Pandey
Written by Mayank Pandey on July 25, 2023

Pericarditis is a condition characterized by the inflammation of the pericardium, which is the thin sac-like tissue surrounding the heart. This inflammation can lead to various symptoms including chest pain, shortness of breath, and fatigue. Pericarditis can be caused by several factors such as viral or bacterial infections, autoimmune disorders, trauma to the chest area, or certain medications.

The diagnosis of pericarditis typically involves a thorough medical history evaluation along with physical examinations and diagnostic tests like blood tests, electrocardiogram (ECG), echocardiogram, or cardiac MRI. Treatment for pericarditis aims to relieve symptoms and address the underlying cause. It often involves rest, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), colchicine, or corticosteroids depending on the severity and duration of symptoms.

While most cases of pericarditis resolve on their own within a few weeks or months with appropriate treatment, complications may arise in some cases. These complications include chronic constrictive pericarditis or recurrent episodes of acute pericarditis. Therefore, it is essential for individuals experiencing symptoms suggestive of pericarditis to seek prompt medical attention for accurate diagnosis and timely management to prevent potential complications.


Causes of pericarditis can vary, but the most common cause is due to a viral infection. Viruses such as the flu or respiratory infections are often responsible for triggering pericarditis. Additionally, bacterial infections like tuberculosis or pneumonia can also lead to this condition. Another potential cause is autoimmune diseases, where the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks and inflames the pericardium. Conditions like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis are known for their association with pericarditis.

In some cases, trauma to the chest may result in inflammation of the pericardium. This could occur from a car accident, blunt force injury, or even during heart surgery procedures. Certain medications have also been linked to causing pericarditis as a side effect. For instance, some antibiotics and immunosuppressive drugs have been known to trigger an inflammatory response in the pericardium.

Other less common causes include radiation therapy for cancer treatment, kidney failure leading to uremic pericarditis, and certain metabolic disorders such as hypothyroidism or amyloidosis. Identifying the underlying cause of pericarditis is crucial for effective treatment and prevention of future episodes.


Pericarditis is a condition characterized by inflammation of the pericardium, which is the sac-like membrane surrounding the heart. It can be caused by various factors such as viral or bacterial infections, autoimmune disorders, heart attacks, or certain medications. The symptoms of pericarditis can vary in severity and duration.

One common symptom of pericarditis is chest pain, which is often sharp and stabbing in nature. This pain may radiate to the neck, shoulder, or back and may worsen with deep breaths or when lying down. Other symptoms include shortness of breath, especially during physical activity or when lying flat; fatigue and weakness; fever; and a dry cough. Some individuals may also experience a rapid heartbeat (tachycardia) or palpitations.

In some cases, pericarditis can lead to complications such as fluid accumulation around the heart (pericardial effusion) or constrictive pericarditis where the inflamed pericardium stiffens and restricts cardiac function. It is important to seek medical attention if you experience any of these symptoms to determine the cause and receive appropriate treatment for pericarditis.


Diagnosis of pericarditis involves a careful evaluation of the patient’s medical history, physical examination, and various diagnostic tests. The doctor will inquire about the patient’s symptoms, such as chest pain, shortness of breath, and fever. They will also consider any recent infections or autoimmune conditions that could be associated with pericarditis.

During the physical examination, the doctor may listen to the patient’s heart using a stethoscope to detect abnormal sounds like a friction rub that can indicate inflammation in the pericardium. Additionally, they may check for signs of fluid accumulation around the heart by examining for jugular venous distension or edema.

To confirm the diagnosis of pericarditis and determine its underlying cause, various diagnostic tests are employed. These include blood tests to assess markers of inflammation (such as C-reactive protein and erythrocyte sedimentation rate), cardiac enzyme levels (troponin), and infectious markers (such as viral serologies). Electrocardiography (ECG) is crucial in diagnosing pericarditis as it often reveals characteristic changes like widespread ST-segment elevations across multiple leads. A chest X-ray shows changes in the size and shape of the heart.

Furthermore, imaging techniques like echocardiography can provide valuable information about possible complications linked to pericarditis such as effusion or tamponade. Occasionally, other advanced imaging modalities like computed tomography (CT) scans or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be required if further clarification is needed regarding potential complications or alternative diagnoses.


Treatment options for pericarditis aim to alleviate symptoms, reduce inflammation, and prevent complications. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or aspirin are commonly used to manage mild cases of pericarditis. These medications help relieve chest pain and reduce inflammation in the pericardium. However, caution should be exercised when using NSAIDs in patients with underlying kidney disease or a history of gastrointestinal bleeding.

In more severe cases of pericarditis, corticosteroids may be prescribed. These powerful anti-inflammatory medications can effectively control inflammation and reduce symptoms. Corticosteroids are typically reserved for patients who do not respond to NSAIDs or have recurrent episodes of pericarditis.

In certain situations, colchicine may also be recommended as a treatment option for pericarditis. Colchicine can help prevent recurrences of the condition by reducing inflammation in the pericardium and inhibiting immune cell activity involved in the development of pericardial inflammation.

Other treatments for pericarditis include drainage procedures if there is an accumulation of fluid around the heart that is causing significant symptoms or complications. This procedure involves inserting a needle into the space around the heart to remove excess fluid and relieve pressure on the organ.

In some cases, if all other treatment options fail to provide relief or if complications arise, surgery may be required.


Prevention plays a crucial role in managing and avoiding pericarditis, a condition characterized by inflammation of the pericardium, the sac-like membrane surrounding the heart. One of the primary preventive measures is focusing on maintaining good overall health. This can be achieved through regular physical exercise, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep. Engaging in regular exercise helps to strengthen the immune system and improves cardiovascular health, reducing the risk of developing pericarditis.

Additionally, it is important to avoid triggers that may lead to pericarditis or exacerbate existing symptoms. These triggers include viral or bacterial infections such as influenza or pneumonia. Practicing good hygiene, such as washing hands regularly and avoiding contact with individuals who are sick, can significantly reduce the chances of contracting an infection that could potentially lead to pericarditis.

Furthermore, managing underlying medical conditions effectively is another vital aspect of prevention. For instance, treating autoimmune disorders like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis promptly and adequately can help prevent complications that might result in pericarditis development. Regular check-ups with healthcare professionals are essential for monitoring any pre-existing conditions and ensuring appropriate treatment strategies are implemented to minimize potential risks associated with pericarditis occurrence.

Complications and Prognosis

Pericarditis refers to the inflammation of the pericardium, which is the thin sac-like structure surrounding the heart. While it is usually a self-limiting condition that resolves on its own or with appropriate treatment, there can be potential complications associated with pericarditis. One such complication is cardiac tamponade, which occurs when fluid accumulates in the pericardial sac and compresses the heart, leading to impaired cardiac function. If left untreated, cardiac tamponade can be life-threatening and requires immediate medical intervention.

Another possible complication of pericarditis is constrictive pericarditis, wherein chronic inflammation causes thickening and scarring of the pericardium. This can result in a stiffening of the sac around the heart, impairing its ability to expand and contract properly during each heartbeat. As a result, individuals may experience symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath, and swelling in their legs. Constrictive pericarditis often requires surgical intervention to remove or repair damaged portions of the pericardium.

The prognosis for individuals with pericarditis varies depending on various factors such as underlying cause, promptness of diagnosis and treatment initiation, as well as any associated complications. In general, acute idiopathic or viral cases tend to have a good prognosis with proper management and adherence to treatment regimens consisting of rest, medication (such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), and sometimes corticosteroids if necessary.


In conclusion, early diagnosis and treatment of pericarditis are crucial for a successful recovery and to prevent potential complications. Pericarditis is an inflammation of the pericardium, the protective sac around the heart. If left untreated, it can lead to serious complications such as cardiac tamponade or constrictive pericarditis.

Early diagnosis allows healthcare professionals to start appropriate treatment promptly, which can alleviate symptoms and prevent further damage. Prompt administration of anti-inflammatory medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or colchicine can reduce inflammation and control pain effectively.

Furthermore, early intervention can also minimize the risk of complications associated with pericarditis. Cardiac tamponade occurs when excess fluid accumulates in the pericardial space, compressing the heart and impairing its ability to pump blood efficiently. Constrictive pericarditis is characterized by a thickening and stiffening of the pericardium, preventing normal heart function. Early diagnosis allows for interventions like draining excess fluid or surgical removal of scar tissue before these conditions become life-threatening.

Overall, recognizing the importance of early diagnosis and seeking timely medical attention for suspected cases of pericarditis is crucial in order to ensure optimal outcomes for patients.

Published on July 25, 2023 and Last Updated on July 25, 2023 by: Mayank Pandey

Mayank Pandey
Written by Mayank Pandey on July 25, 2023

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