Protect Your Heart from Infections

Protect Your Heart from Infections - South Denver Cardiology

What causes heart disease? Answers that spring to mind include poor diet, obesity or even heart defects. These are all potential factors, but sometimes the culprit is infection.

Bacteria Causes Endocarditis

Endocarditis is the infection of the heart valves or lining. It is caused most frequently by bacteria from other parts of the body (such as the mouth or nasal cavity) in the bloodstream settling in the heart. It can also be caused fungi, though less commonly.

Symptoms include:

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Flu-like symptoms (chills and fever)
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Coughing and shortness of breath
  • Spots of blood under the fingernails or skin

Are you at risk? Common risk factors include:

  • Previous case of endocarditis
  • HIV
  • Intravenous drug use (dirty needles are especially dangerous)
  • Congenital heart defect
  • Hemodialysis or central access catheter
  • Implanted heart device (such as a pacemaker)

**Please note, history of other heart procedures or cardiac incidents (such as bypass surgery or history of heart attack) do NOT put you at greater risk for endocarditis.

Once diagnosed through a blood test and imaging (such as an echocardiogram, electrocardiogram or chest x-ray), endocarditis is treated immediately with antibiotic therapy. Some severe cases may require surgery or further intervention.

Endocarditis is a very serious disease and needs to be treated immediately. It can be life threatening if left untreated. If you are experiencing possible endocarditis-related symptoms, seek medical care right away.

Viruses Can Also Attack the Heart

Additionally, viruses can strike the heart. Most often, viral infections result in myocarditis, which is the inflammation of the heart. In a healthy immune system, the body can respond to myocarditis and eliminate the virus and soothe the swelling. However, in some cases, myocarditis can be very serious. Sadly, 48-year-old Keli McGregor, the president of the Rockies since 2001, died unexpectedly in April 2010 from severe myocarditis that was left untreated and ultimately resulted in heart failure.

Myocarditis can be caused by a variety of viral infections, including adenovirus (a common cause of respiratory infections), cytomegalovirus (the group of infections that includes chickenpox), Epstein-Barr virus (which is typically responsible for mononucleosis), rubella and, most frequently, Coxsackievirus B, which causes more than half of myocarditis cases in the United States.

While symptoms can be varied or nonexistent, watch out for these signs:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Chest pain
  • Abnormal heartbeat
  • Muscle aches
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Swelling in the legs
  • Sore throat
  • Shortness of breath

Seek medical treatment if you believe you have any heart infection symptoms. Early intervention can help prevent heart damage and may even save your life from a potentially serious infection.

How to Use this Information

If you have any questions about your cardiovascular health or about how to protect your heart from infections, talk to the experts at South Denver Cardiology. Call 303-744-1065, or visit our website and schedule an appointment!