Myocarditis is the inflammation or infection of the heart's muscle or myocardium.

In this condition, the heart muscle becomes weakened and cannot pump blood out of the heart efficiently. As a result, blood pools inside the heart and pressure inside the heart's chamber rises. This causes the heart muscle to become even more strained and weakened, and in a vicious cycle can lead to serious conditions such as heart failure.

Myocarditis Symptoms

The symptoms of myocarditis include:

  • Rapid heart beat
  • Shortness of breath, especially during physical activity
  • Fatigue

Diagnosis of Myocarditis

Your doctor would do the following tests to diagnose myocarditis:

  • Physical examination with a stethoscope
    A distinct sound of ventricular gallop can be heard with a stethoscope.

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG)
    A change in the heart's electrical pattern can be seen.

  • Echocardiogram
    Heart enlargement and reduced pumping power of the heart's muscle are seen.

  • Blood test
    Rise in the levels of immune system's antibodies corresponding to an infection can be shown in a blood test.

Causes of Myocarditis

The following can result in inflammation of the heart muscle:

  • Viral, bacterial, and parasitic infections
    Coxsackie virus infection of the upper respiratory tract often precedes its infection of the heart muscle. Other microorganisms that can infect the heart include Rocky Mountain spotted fever, toxoplasmosis and trichinosis parasites, and rickettsial bacteria.
  • Toxins produced by diphteria bacteria
  • Side effects from radiation treatment for cancer
  • Side effects of medications, such as lithium, doxorubicin, and chloroquine
  • Drug use, particularly cocaine use

Myocarditis Treatment

In many cases, myocarditis is very treatable and many patients with this condition spontaneously recover.

The treatments for myocarditis include:

  • Antibiotics
    Standard in myocarditis treatment, antibiotics are used to get rid of the underlying bacterial infection.

  • Anti-inflammatory medications
    Corticosteroids and other anti-inflammatory medications can be prescribed to reduce the inflammation in the heart muscle tissue

  • Heart medications
    To compensate for the weakened heart muscle, medications that improve the heart's pumping force, help regulate heart rhythms, reduce blood pressure, and reduce excess fluid to help the heart pump easier are often prescribed.

Myocarditis due to side effects of doxorubicin medications and myocarditis associated with AIDS are more difficult to treat.

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