Pericarditis is a swelling and irritation in the pericardium, which is the thin sac-like membrane surrounding our heart. Pericarditis often causes pain in chest and many times other symptoms. The sharp chest pain in pericarditis occurs when the irritated or inflamed layers of the pericardium rub against one another in the heart. This makes it feel like a pain from a heart attack.

Pericarditis can be attributed to cause due to other factors, including viral, fungal, bacterial, and other infections. Other possible causes are heart surgery or heart attack, other medical, injuries, conditions, and medicines.

Pericarditis may be “acute”, meaning that it happens due to suddenly and typically does not last for long, or “chronic” meaning it is developed over the period of time and may take even longer to treat it. Both of these types of pericarditis can disrupt our heart's normal functioning or rhythm and though rarely or possibly lead to death. 


Depending on the type of signs and symptoms of pericarditis, it may include some or all of the following:

  • Sharp or piercing chest pain over the left side or center of the chest

  • Heart palpitations

  • Shortness of breath while reclining

  • An overall sense of fatigue, weakness or feeling sick

  • Low-grade fever

  • Leg or abdominal swelling

  • Cough


Under any normal circumstances, the two-layered pericardial sac which surrounds our heart contains a small amount of the lubricating fluid. So in pericarditis, this sac becomes heavy and inflamed which then results in friction of the inflamed sac that leads to chest pain.

The cause of pericarditis was often hard to determine. In most cases, doctors either is unable to determine the cause (idiopathic) or suspect the viral infection. Causes of pericarditis include:

Systemic inflammatory disorder. These can include lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

Traumas. Injury to our heart or chest can occur as a result of the motor vehicle or any other accident.

Other health disorder. These can include kidney failure, AIDS, tuberculosis, and cancer.

Certain medication. Some medications may cause pericarditis, although this is unusual.

Why does pericarditis ever happen?

In most cases of pericarditis, causes are not identified. However, an infection was usually thought to be responsible.

Other things that can cause pericarditis include chest injury, some cancers and some treatments, such as radiotherapy or chemotherapy.

Problem with the body immune system can also play a role in the recurring and chronic pericarditis

How can be pericarditis treated?

Acute pericarditis may usually be treated with medication to reduce swelling, such as the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAIDs), although antibiotics can be used if there is a bacterial infection.

A medication known as colchicines is often used for recurring pericarditis, as it could prevent symptoms returning.

Treatment for chronic pericarditis will be depending on the underlying cause. Some cases respond well to the medication, while others may require undergoing surgery.

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