What is Pericarditis?
The pericardium is a thin, sac-like covering (a membrane) that surrounds
the heart. The outer layer of the pericardium surrounds the roots of the
heart's major blood vessels. Ligaments attach this layer to their spinal
column, diaphragm, and other parts of the body. The inner layer of the
pericardium is attached to the heart muscle. A coating of fluid separates
the two layers of membrane, letting the heart move as it beats, yet still
be attached to the body.
Pericarditis is inflammation of the pericardium. When Pericarditis occurs
the amount of fluid between the two layers of the pericardium increases.
This increased fluid presses on the heart and restricts its pumping
What are the symptoms? The main symptom of Pericarditis is a sharp,
stabbing pain in the center or the left side of the chest. (In some
cases, the pain may be dull.) The pain may spread to the neck or left
shoulder and can worsen when you take a deep breath. The pain is usually
lessened if you are sitting up or leaning forward and can worsen when you
lie down. Other symptoms may include fever, cough, pain when swallowing,
trouble breathing or overall feeling of sickness.
Pericarditis occurs most often in men between the ages of 20 and 50 years
old. In most cases, the cause of Pericarditis is unknown
Pericarditis can occur from:
• A viral, bacterial, or fungal infection.
• A heart attack.
• Cancer that has spread from a nearby tumor.
• Radiation treatment for some types of cancer.
• Injury to the chest, esophagus (food pipe), or heart.
• Use of certain kinds of medicines to suppress your immune system.
Pericarditis can also occur in patients who have rheumatoid arthritis,
lupus, kidney failure, leukemia, HIV, or AIDS.
For any chest pain, it may be wise to consult a doctor.