According to abbreviationfinder, heart muscle inflammation or myocarditis is a disease of the heart. This inflammation of the heart muscle can be both chronic and acute. If left untreated, heart muscle inflammation can have serious physical consequences and should therefore be treated by a doctor.
What is heart muscle inflammation?
In the case of heart muscle inflammation, also known as myocarditis in technical terms, the heart muscle or pericardium becomes inflamed. If the pericardium is also affected, doctors speak of perimyocarditis. When diagnosing, however, it is often difficult to separate the two diseases.
Inflammation of the myocardium leads to the disruption of the ability of the heart to contract. This leads to a drop in physical performance or even cardiac insufficiency. This inflammation is also known, in some cases, to be the cause of sudden cardiac death.
Myocarditis is most commonly caused by viruses in western countries. The best known is an infection with the Coxsackie B virus. This often occurs as a cause of colds and meningitis. An unhealed flu infection or gastrointestinal flu can also lead to myocarditis.
In particular, if the illness is not properly cured and the person concerned exerts himself physically too early, such as in endurance sports. Bacterial disease can also lead to heart muscle inflammation. The most common diseases here are diphtheria, scarlet fever and Lyme disease. This is a tick-borne disease.
In rare cases, the heart muscle can also become inflamed after infection with fungi, parasites, or unicellular organisms such as toxoplasmosis. Inflammation of the heart muscle due to an autoimmune disease, radiation therapy or the use of medication or drugs is less common, but definitely possible.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
Although heart muscle inflammation is often a serious disease, it is not so easy to diagnose because in many cases there are no or only unspecific symptoms. These non-specific symptoms can also indicate other diseases. Many sufferers complain about general inefficiency and tiredness.
However, if the states of exhaustion increase and at the same time shortness of breath occurs with the slightest exertion, this is considered a serious warning sign for possible heart muscle inflammation. These symptoms are often accompanied by loss of appetite, weight loss, headaches, and body aches. In some of those affected, direct heart symptoms such as palpitations, tightness in the chest ( angina pectoris ) or even palpitations increase.
Cardiac arrhythmias such as tachycardia or uncoordinated heartbeats often intensify. Physical performance also decreases. Young people then also have increasing difficulties climbing stairs and all other activities. In severe cases, cardiac insufficiency results, which is characterized by fluid retention in the body, severe shortness of breath and visible congestion in the veins in the neck.
However, serious cases of heart muscle inflammation are rare. Sometimes there are only slight symptoms or no symptoms at all. In other cases, however, even a banal flu infection leads to acute myocarditis, which develops very quickly and can lead to severe heart failure within a short time. Sometimes saving the life of the affected patient is only possible with a heart transplant.
course of the disease
The course of a myocarditis or heart muscle inflammation can be very different.
There are unproblematic courses of heart muscle inflammation with only very weak symptoms, but also severe cases. These can even be fatal. At the beginning, the affected person first notices a general weakness, which is also noticeable in daily activities.
This can lead to rapid fatigue and weight loss. Pain in the limbs also occasionally occurs as a symptom of heart muscle inflammation.
In addition, so-called heart palpitations, palpitations or pain in the chest area can occur. Depending on the severity of the disease, even simple physical activities can lead to shortness of breath or even shortness of breath.
If the function of the heart is already restricted due to the myocarditis, fluid builds up in the legs or lungs. A chronic course is also possible. The heart muscle enlarges but loses its ability to contract.
Inflammation of the heart muscle is a very serious disease which, in the worst case, can lead to the death of the patient. Inflammation reduces life expectancy if not treated promptly. The patients suffer from severe heart problems. As a rule, there is pain in the area of the heart and the heart beats faster than usual.
Likewise, the person concerned feels weak and is no longer resilient in the usual way. Even ordinary and simple activities can seem strenuous for the patient. Weight loss occurs and body aches continue. As the heart muscle inflammation progresses, shortness of breath occurs, which in most patients also leads directly to a panic attack. The patient’s quality of life is extremely restricted by the heart muscle inflammation. Without treatment, spontaneous cardiac death can also occur.
The general condition of the patient deteriorates and it is not uncommon for them to have trouble concentrating or thinking. Myocarditis can be treated with antibiotics, with no particular complications. However, it cannot be predicted whether the heart will be irreversibly damaged by the myocarditis and whether this will reduce the patient’s life expectancy.
When should you go to the doctor?
Since the symptoms of heart muscle inflammation are quite non-specific, a diagnosis is difficult. Myocarditis can go unnoticed for a long time, but that doesn’t mean it’s harmless. Heart failure, shortness of breath and similar symptoms should be examined as soon as possible.
One of the key symptoms, the feverish infection, does not yet represent an urgent problem. However, if heart disease of any kind occurs in connection with this (weakness despite rest, breathing problems, tachycardia, etc.) the suspicion of myocarditis is obvious. A doctor should be consulted urgently. The first point of contact is the family doctor, who will then refer you to a cardiologist if necessary.
People who already have cardiac insufficiency in particular should see a doctor quickly if their feelings change. The same applies to people who practice excessive sport. This can be fatal in combination with myocarditis.
A quick trip to the doctor and a quick treatment are in any case in the interest of the person concerned. Otherwise, an infection can be delayed or spread. Consequential damage to the heart is all the worse, the longer the myocarditis remains untreated.
Treatment & Therapy
Inflammation of the heart muscle is usually treated with medication. If there is a bacterial infection, it is treated with the use of antibiotics. If the myocarditis was caused by viruses, they cannot be treated with medication. In these cases, only the side effects are treated. For this purpose, painkillers are administered and possible cardiac arrhythmias are treated with the administration of special medication.
If the myocarditis has already led to cardiac insufficiency, this is treated with a mixture of diuretics, ACE inhibitors and beta-blockers. In the case of a large effusion, this is punctured, i.e. the liquid is suctioned out. If an autoimmune disease is the reason for the heart muscle inflammation, this is also treated by the administration of cortisone. This is intended to suppress the body’s own defenses.
If the inflammation has already caused severe and permanent damage to the heart, the last alternative is heart transplantation. In order to prevent heart muscle inflammation, you should take extra care when you have a fever. Even if you have a simple cold, you should not exercise.
Outlook & Forecast
If the patient follows the doctor’s instructions, he has a good prognosis for heart muscle inflammation. With consistent rest, a healthy lifestyle and the avoidance of stress, most of those affected will progress well and heal. The myocarditis heals completely and usually without further sequelae.
Overexertion should be avoided during the healing process, as this can lead to complications and a life-threatening condition. In about 15% of the patients, a chronic course of the disease of myocarditis develops. The functional activity of the heart is permanently limited and the resilience is reduced. This affects the patient’s health and prognosis. A change in everyday processes is necessary so that the heart function does not deteriorate. For many of those affected, professional and sporting activities have to be restructured and restricted.
The general performance of the patient decreases and the susceptibility to illness increases. Many patients report shortness of breath and receive lifelong medication. If severe cardiac arrhythmia occurs, the heart muscle inflammation can lead to death. Sudden cardiac death is the result of the irregularities. In principle, patients with cardiac muscle inflammation must undergo regular check-ups throughout their lives. Heart activity is checked so that any discrepancies can be addressed immediately.
With the right aftercare, most heart muscle inflammations heal without any problems and enable those affected to lead a symptom-free life. The patient must of course also contribute to this. In addition to regular check-ups with the treating doctor and strict adherence to the medication regimen, the affected person must also observe a rest period of three to six months. During this period, physical activity or other strenuous activities are completely prohibited.
The cause of myocarditis often lies in delayed infections in which those affected have not spared themselves. Even after the patient has completely healed, they must rest in bed if they have any future colds or gastrointestinal infections. This does not only apply to high fever, but also to milder symptoms such as a runny nose or cough.
This is the only way to effectively prevent the heart from being overloaded and the infection from spreading to the heart muscle. Since both a fatty diet and smoking are among the typical risk factors for heart disease, a change in diet and giving up smoking is essential. If the patient tends to be overweight, weight reduction helps to relieve the cardiovascular system.
Everyday life should be reorganized in such a way that stress is avoided. Yoga, meditation or hobbies can help as a balance. Under certain circumstances, psychotherapy can help to deal better with the remaining stress, to find the perfect balance and to relieve the body.
You can do that yourself
Myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) is a disease that should be taken very seriously and should never be treated yourself, otherwise there is a risk of serious complications.
Whether and what the patient can contribute to healing depends on the cause of the myocarditis. If the illness is due to a bacterial or viral infection, which is often the case, then the patient can speed up recovery by boosting the body’s defenses. A predominantly plant -based diet rich in vitamins and fiber is helpful. Meat and sausage products, ready meals, sweets, white flour products and luxury foods such as alcohol and cigarettes, on the other hand, are counterproductive. In naturopathy, coneflower is used to strengthen the immune system(Echinacea purpurea) are used. However, such over-the-counter medications should never be taken in the event of heart muscle inflammation without consulting the doctor treating you.
Regardless of the cause of myocarditis, physical rest is always necessary. However, the doctor’s instructions must be followed in this regard. The same applies to sporting activities, even if these are generally health-promoting, such as regular walks. These activities also usually have to be given up during heart muscle inflammation.
Overexertion during convalescence can lead to relapse, which is associated with permanent damage to the heart. The patient should therefore rest to the extent necessary.