Endocarditis is a heart infection that causes inflammation of the inner lining of the chambers and valves of the heart which are also called endocardium. The infection can be bacterial, fungal, or by the germs from anywhere else in the patient’s body. It can destroy your patient's heart valves and is a potentially life-threatening disease.
Considering the harmful disease that endocarditis is, we asked a highly qualified cardiologist in Kulsoom international hospital Islamabad to tell us about the symptoms, causes, risks, effects, and prevention of endocarditis in order to spread awareness. This is what the doctors told us:
The severity, rate of spreading infection, and the noticeable symptoms of endocarditis vary from person to person. However, some common symptoms for endocarditis include fatigue, shortness of breath, sweating at night, chest pain while breathing, swelling in feet, legs, or abdomen, aching muscles or joints, cold-like symptoms, and changed heart murmur.
Now some of the not-so-common symptoms for endocarditis include blood discharge in urine, the appearance of red spots on the sole of feet or the palms of hands, unexpected weight loss, tiny spots under the skin of fingers and toes, purple/red spots on the skin, in the whites of patient’s eyes or inside their mouth, and inflammation in the spleen. If you see any of the above-mentioned symptoms, book an appointment with a cardiologist in Islamabad immediately.
Usually, our immune system is efficient enough to kill any germs that enter the bloodstream but sometimes the bacteria that live in the mouth, throat, or other parts of our body, such as our skin or our gut, can enter our bloodstream and eventually reach our heart causing damage to our heart tissues. Hence the potential causes for endocarditis can be:
Poor Oral Health
Poor oral hygiene not only welcomes bacteria to our gut but also makes our gums bleed which further gives the chance for germs to enter our bloodstream. Moreover, some dental surgeries also require injury in gums that again welcomes bacteria to enter our blood and eventually in our heart.
Unsupervised IV Drug Injection
Using contaminated needles and syringes for drug injection can put a person at high risk and increases the chance of endocarditis.
Prolonged Use of Catheters
When a patient is on bed rest or gravely ill, the doctors sometimes use a thin tube to inject or remove fluid from the body called a catheter. If the catheter is used for a long period of time it can catch germs and can eventually allow those germs to enter our bloodstream.
Endocarditis can cause several serious heart conditions like heart valve damage and heart failure, kidney damage, pockets of pus in the heart, brain, lung, or other major organs. It can also cause a stroke, enlarged spleen, and pulmonary embolism.
In the case of deadly conditions like endocarditis, prevention is the best treatment. So what you can do is immediately see a doctor in case of symptoms, take good care of your oral hygiene, and refrain from unsupervised and illegal IV injections for drugs.
The Bottom Line
Heart infection symptoms can be severe and life-threatening. Endocarditis, if left unchecked, can escalate to heart attack and harm the cardiovascular system and the lining of the heart. This may also take place even after antibiotic therapy in serious cases. Hence If you see any symptoms, do not ignore them and take action immediately.