INFECTIVE ENDOCARDITIS: SIGNS YOU HAVE HEART INFECTION
Infective endocarditis is a disease that affects the inner layers of your heart. Bacteria, viruses, fungi and other tiny organisms don’t spare any part of your body. Even your heart can be invaded and damaged by these agents of doom. How they do it? Read on:
Infective Endocarditis: What Is It?
It is a disease affecting the innermost layers of your heart. And it occurs when tiny germs get in contact with the inner aspect of your heart, settle down and start multiplying.
The infection mostly starts on the heart valves or any part of the inner covering of your heart that is already damaged. Valve is a piece of structure in the heart that acts like a one- way gate which allows blood to move in one direction. Valves (A-V valves) open to allow blood move from the upper chamber of the heart (atrium) to the lower chamber (ventricle). They prevent back flow of blood from the ventricle to the atrium unless the valve is damaged.
What Are Your Chances of Catching The Infection?
Scientific studies have shown that between 5 – 15 persons out of a 100,000 may catch the infection every year. However it affects older people (60 years of age and above) more than younger ones.
Infective endocarditis can occur in a normal heart with normal parts and structures. However in most situations the heart that is already damaged from other conditions has higher chances of getting infected. If you have a heart defect from birth or you abuse IV drugs then your chances of catching this disease are more.
What Happens When You Get Infected?
Once the bacteria settle on your heart valve they continue to multiply and attract materials from your blood. The bacteria clump to these materials and form a lump which may be big enough to block the free flow of blood in your heart. The lump may also break into pieces then carried by blood flow to other parts of your body. These pieces flowing in your blood are known as emboli and can go to your lungs and prevent breathing killing you immediately. The emboli also contain bacteria which may be taken to other sensitive parts of your body (kidney, liver, brain) leading to disease.
The bacteria living in your heart could damage the heart structures (example valves) or form an abscess (pus: yellowish – cream liquid).
Symptoms and Signs of Infective Endocarditis
Symptoms and signs of infective endocarditis may include: fever that continues for several weeks especially in a person known to have a heart problem; tiredness; sweating at night; loss of weight; difficulty in breathing; swelling of your legs or other parts of your body; stroke; appearance of red dots on your skin, on your finger nails or redness of your eyes; swelling of your belly due to increase in size of your liver and spleen.
You may need to do a blood test to confirm the types of bacteria causing the disease. Blood test will also guide your doctor to the best antibiotic to use for your treatment.
Echocardiography (Echo) is needed to show the inside of your heart and detect any lumps of vegetations formed. Echo will also detect damaged heart valves and if there is collection of pus in the heart it will show your doctor. Other tests such as ECG and chest X-ray may also help.
Treatment of Infective Endocarditis
You will need admission to the hospital for treatment by different specialists. Your treatment will involve antibiotic injections given directly into your veins up to 6 times per day for 4 – 6 weeks.
You may also require surgery to remove the lumps of vegetations in your heart if their size is very big.
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Kasper, D. L. et al. eds. Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine. 19th ed. McGraw Hill. USA.
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