What Is Pericardial Disease, and What Can I Do to Prevent it?

Pericardial diseases refer to conditions where the thin membrane that lines the heart becomes inflamed. Many patients have symptoms that resolve within a few weeks. 

In some cases, however, pericardial disease can recur or persist for more than six months. Complications can develop, including pericardial effusion (fluid around the heart) or pericardial constriction (compression of the heart). 

Treatment focuses on reducing inflammation and pain. While pericarditis can’t be prevented, you can reduce the risk of complications and lower the chances of having another episode.

What is pericardial disease?

Here at West Coast Medicine and Cardiology, cardiologist and internist Dr. Rajesh Sam Suri and our team help patients live well with pericardial disease. 

People with pericarditis have inflammation of the pericardium, a sac-like membrane that surrounds the heart. A small amount of fluid prevents friction between the two thin layers of pericardial tissue. When this lining becomes inflamed, the tissue can rub together

Chest pain is the primary symptom of pericardial disease, and it’s sometimes mistaken for a heart attack. Some people have sudden pericarditis that doesn’t last long. This is known as acute pericarditis. 

In other cases, it develops over time and becomes chronic. Patients with long-term pericardial disease often experience fatigue, shortness of breath and coughing.

Causes of pericardial disease

In most cases, the exact cause of pericardial disease isn’t known. Viral infections and autoimmune conditions are often suspected in pericarditis. A heart attack or having heart surgery can also cause pericardial disease. 

While people of all ages are at risk, men between the ages of 20 and 50 are at an increased risk of developing pericarditis. Dr. Sam Suri takes a detailed medical history, gives you a physical exam, and performs relevant tests to make the proper diagnosis.

Prevention

Relapsing or recurrent pericarditis can be frustrating, but you can live well with pericardial disease. Most initial cases of pericardial disease can’t be prevented. However, prompt treatment and sticking to your care plan can lessen the likelihood of having another acute episode of pericarditis. 

Because chest infections raise the chances of pericarditis, it’s crucial to see your doctor immediately for prompt treatment of infections such as pneumonia.

Managing autoimmune conditions such as lupus can prevent pericarditis flare-ups. If you’ve had an episode of pericarditis, regular checkups with Dr. Sam Suri can reduce the chances of having another episode.

Treatment for pericarditis

At West Coast Medicine and Cardiology, we work with patients to develop an individualized treatment plan. Patients with uncomplicated pericarditis often recover within a few weeks, and we work to prevent another episode. Patients with complications may take longer to recover. Anti-inflammatory medication and rest can help you feel better if your pericarditis is mild.

If your symptoms are severe, you’re likely to require additional treatment. Steroidal anti-inflammatory medication and antibiotics may be used as part of your treatment. In some severe cases, surgical intervention is necessary. We can manage most cases of pericardial disease with conservative treatments.

Preventing complications

Pericardial disease can lead to serious complications, such as fluid buildup that places pressure on the heart. When this happens, less oxygenated blood can enter — a medical emergency that requires swift treatment. Working closely with your cardiologist can lessen your risk of serious complications.

Most cases of acute pericardial disease are uncomplicated. Prompt diagnosis and management is key. For pericarditis treatment or for a cardiovascular checkup, call our Fremont or Hayward, California, office to schedule an appointment. You can also send the team a message here on our website.

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