When you develop a blood infection, your heart is vulnerable.
Endocarditis is an infection caused mostly by bacteria that enters your bloodstream and settles in your heart’s lining. The disease is unusual in people with healthy hearts because a robust cardiac lining offers no place for germs to attach, and the immune system cleans them out. Some otherwise healthy people may develop this condition from intravenous substance abuse. People with damaged or artificial heart valves or other heart conditions are also at risk. Microbes can spread from a range of disorders, including everyday activities such as brushing your teeth and chewing food – especially if your teeth and gums are not healthy.
Without immediate treatment, endocarditis can be damaging to your heart - or even deadly.
While symptoms may appear quickly, within a few days of blood infection, many people develop no particular heart symptoms. Diagnosis requires careful evaluation and testing. Treatment includes several weeks of intravenous antibiotics to ensure the bacteria is completely destroyed. Some people need surgery to treat the effects of endocarditis. If you have heart abnormalities, you should discuss your risk for endocarditis with your doctor. Some people even require preventive antibiotics before certain medical or dental procedures.
Symptoms may include:
• Fever and chills
• Heart murmur
• Purple-red spots on skin, whites of eyes or inside mouth (petechiae)
• Shortness of breath
• Swelling feet, legs or abdomen
• Tender left side (spleen)
• Tender, red spots on fingers (Osler nodes)
• There are no symptoms