Myocarditis-a rare condition causing damage to your heart muscle starts with an inflammation of the muscular wall of the heart (the myocardium).
This is the area of your heart which contracts to pump blood out of the heart, and then relaxes as the heart refills with returning blood.
As a result of this inflammation, the heart can’t pump as it should due to the swelling (edema) and the damage to its cells.
Even more damage is possible if the body’s immune system sends antibodies to fight the source of the inflammation.
- Sometimes, the antibodies attack the tissues of the heart instead. If too many cells are damaged, the heart muscle is weakened.
In some cases, this process happens very quickly and results in heart failure or even sudden death.
- Viral, bacterial or fungal infections
- Rheumatic Fever
- Drug or chemical poisoning: radiation, carbon monoxide
- Connective tissue diseases such as Lupus or Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Medications and other substances:
➡ These may include antibiotics, such as penicillin and sulfonamide drugs; some anti-seizure medications; and some illegal substances, such as cocaine.
More often, the heart attempts to heal itself by changing the damaged or dead heart muscle cells into scar tissue. But…
- Scar tissue doesn’t contract like heart muscle and it can’t help the heart to pump. So, if enough scar tissue forms in the heart, it can lead to congestive heart failure.
Potential Outcomes of Myocarditis:
- Heart Failure: When it’s severe, Myocarditis can permanently damage your heart muscle and prevent it from pumping blood effectively, causing heart failure.
➡ In severe cases, myocarditis-related heart failure may require an implanted ventricular assistive device or a heart transplant.
- Heart attack or stroke: If the heart muscle is injured and can’t pump blood, the blood that pools in your heart can form clots.
If a clot blocks one of your heart’s arteries, you can have a heart attack. If a blood clot in your heart travels to an artery leading to your brain before becoming lodged, you can have a stroke.
- Irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmias). Damage to your heart muscle can cause irregular heart rhythms. Some arrhythmias are life-threatening and your heart can suddenly stop beating (sudden cardiac arrest) if not treated immediately.
Treatment for myocarditis depends on the underlying cause.
With a mild case of myocarditis, there may be no symptoms at all. You may have a fever, an achy feeling in your chest, and severe fatigue, like when you have a bad cold or flu.
Some people have an irregular heartbeat or trouble breathing. But, usually, a mild case of myocarditis will go away without any lasting damage.
Common Myocarditis symptoms include:
- Chest pain
- Fast or abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias)
- Shortness of breath, at rest or during physical activity
- Fluid retention with swelling of your legs, ankles, and feet
- Other signs and symptoms you’d have with a viral infection, such as a headache, body aches, joint pain, fever, a sore throat or diarrhea.
In serious cases, the signs and symptoms of myocarditis vary, depending on the cause of the disease.
- Contact your doctor if you have any of the symptoms of myocarditis, particularly chest pain and shortness of breath.
- If you’ve had an infection, be alert for the symptoms of myocarditis and call your Doctor if you notice any.
If you have severe symptoms, go to the emergency room or call for emergency medical help.
Symptoms to report immediately:
- Failure to thrive or poor weight gain
- Trouble eating or retaining food
- Fever or other symptoms of infection
- Low urine output (a sign of decreasing kidney function)
- Pale, cool hands and feet (a sign of poor circulation)
- Rapid breathing
- Fast heart rate (faster than normal for you)
Stay safe, stay informed, and report any symptoms you feel are unusual for YOU to your healthcare provider. Don’t put it off!