Pericarditis is is inflammation of the heart's covering or pericardium. This covering is composed of two layers of fibrous tissue, which is filled with liquid. The pericardium serves as a protective cover and cushion to the heart, and reduces the friction as it beats.

When the pericardium is inflamed and irritated, it hurts - especially when the person is lying down (because the heart weighs down on the pericardium).

Pericarditis Symptoms

The symptoms of pericarditis include:

  • Chest pain
  • Tenderness behind the breast bone
  • Pain worsens with lying down and eases up when sitting up
  • Dry cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart palpitations

Diagnosis of Pericarditis

Your doctor would perform the following tests to diagnose pericarditis:

  • Physical examination with a stethoscope
    Raspy sound due to friction of the inflamed pericardium.

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG)
    Changes to the heart's electrical pattern can be observed with an ECG.

  • Chest x-ray
    Enlarged heart can be seen with a chest x-ray.

Pericarditis Causes

In pericarditis, the pericardium becomes inflamed due to:

  • Infection by bacteria, fungi, or viruses
    The most common cause of pericarditis is viral infection following an influenza, chicken pox or mumps.

  • Heart attack
  • Physical trauma that bruises the heart
  • Immune system disorder, such as rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus
  • Connective tissue disease
  • Cancer
  • Side effects of medications, such as penicillin and minoxidil
  • Side effects of radiation therapy

Treatment for Pericarditis

The treatment for pericarditis are:

  • Pain killer, if the symptom is very mild
  • Anti-inflammatory medicines, such as corticosteroids
  • Intravenous medication and hospitalization for serious cases
  • Surgery


In most cases, pericarditis respond well to medications. This condition is usually more serious if caused by underlying immune system disorder, heart attack, cancer, and side effect of radiation.

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