When a virus affects your heart, it can be very serious.

Myocarditis is the inflammation of the middle layer of your heart wall, the myocardium. It’s an uncommon disorder, but one that can affect your heart’s electrical system, trigger irregular heart rhythms and cause the degeneration or death of heart muscle cells. Most of the time myocarditis is caused by a virus that affects the heart. It can also be caused by an autoimmune disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, or by bacterial infections, such as Lyme disease. Rarely, myocarditis has been caused by cocaine use or exposure to metal poisons or snake or spider bites. Cases can range from mild to a rapidly progressing fatal disease.

Myocarditis is a rare but serious condition that affects both males and females of any age who are often otherwise healthy.

In mild cases, myocarditis may have no symptoms. In more severe cases, symptoms may potentially result in permanent damage to the heart muscle. Myocarditis may resolve itself on its own, but needs to be carefully monitored. Medications may be needed to treat the heart depending on how the heart is affected. More severe cases may require additional invasive cardiac procedures. Rest, monitored activity and follow-up appointments with your physician are common in recovery.

Symptoms may include:
• Chest pain or discomfort
• Rapid or abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias)
• Shortness of breath, at rest or during physical activity
• Swelling of legs, ankles and feet
• Fatigue
• Usual signs associated with a viral infection, such as headache, body aches, joint pain, fever, sore throat or diarrhea

Back to Top