Endocarditis is an infection of Heart. It infects endocardium, which is the inner lining of heart valves and heart chambers. Generally, endocarditis is caused by the infection of bacteria, fungi or other germs. It occurs when the bacteria, fungi or other germs from another part of the body such as from mouth enters the bloodstream and gets attached to the damaged portion of the heart.
If endocarditis is not treated immediately, then it can severely damage the heart valves. It can also cause life-threatening complications. It can be treated with the use of antibiotics and in severe cases, surgery can also be performed.
There are many ways to develop endocarditis. Therefore, a doctor cannot predict the exact cause of endocarditis. The people at the greatest risk of endocarditis usually have damaged heart valves or other heart defects.
Symptoms of Endocarditis
Endocarditis can develop slowly or suddenly. This infection depending upon the type of germs causing the infection. If the person is already having an underlying heart problem, then the condition becomes severe.
The symptoms of endocarditis can vary from one person to another person.
Some of the common symptoms of endocarditis are the following:
- Night Sweats
- Shortness of breath or difficulty in breathing
- Flu-like symptoms, such as chills and fever
- A new heart murmuring (it is the sound of heart produced by the rushing of blood through the heart)
- Joints and muscles ache
- Chest pain while breathing
- Swelling in legs, feet or abdomen
Endocarditis can also cause some uncommon symptoms. Such as the patient can experience an unexplained weight loss. It can also cause blood in the urine. The blood cells in urine can only be observed via the microscopic analysis of urine.
Tenderness in the spleen can also be observed. Spleen is an infection-fighting abdominal organ which is present on the left side, just below the rib cage of your body. Janeway lesions can also be observed. These are the red spots on the palm of your hand or on the sole of your feet.
One can also observe Osler’s nodes during endocarditis. These are the red, tender spots which are present under the skin of your toes and fingers. Petechiae can also occur during endocarditis. These are the tiny red or purple spots. These can appear on the skin, the whites of the eyes, or inside the mouth.
Causes and Route of Infection
Endocarditis is caused by germs. Most of the cases of endocarditis are caused by bacteria but fungi are also a causative agent. Certain types of bacteria cause most cases, but fungi or also may be responsible. It occurs when the germs such as bacteria, fungi or other microorganisms enter the bloodstream and travel to the heart.
In most of the cases, the immune system fights and destroys the harmful bacteria. Even if the bacteria reach your heart, it can pass through the heart without causing any kind of infection. However, it can cause serious endocarditis only under the right circumstances. The germs can get attach to only the damaged heart tissue or abnormal heart valves.
The harmful fungi, bacteria or other germs that because endocarditis can enter the bloodstream in many ways. The germs can enter the bloodstream via everyday oral activities. The activities like brushing the teeth, or the activities that can cause the bleeding of gums, can allow the bacteria to enter the bloodstream. It usually happens, if the teeth and gums aren’t in healthy condition.
Certain dental procedures can also cause the entrance of germs into the bloodstream. The dental procedure which involves the cutting of gums can cause infection.
The presence of other infections or a medical condition such as skin sore can also cause the spread of bacteria from the already infected area. The medical conditions, such as a sexually transmitted infection (STD), gum disease, or intestinal disorders (such as inflammatory bowel disease) can also cause the spread of bacteria to the bloodstream.
The use of Catheters can also cause the spread of infection. The catheter is a thin tube that is mostly used to remove fluid from the body. There are high chances of causing infection if the catheter is in place for a longer period.
The needles used for body and tattoos piercing can also cause the spread of bacteria into the bloodstream. endocarditis can also enter your bloodstream through the needles used for tattooing or body piercing.
The use of intravenous illegal drugs can also cause infection. The use of contaminated syringes and needles for illegal intravenous drugging can also transfer harmful bacteria to the bloodstream which can later cause endocarditis.
The bacteria can easily get attached to the lining of the heart called endocardium, if the lining is rough. The people having faulty, diseased or damaged heart valves are at high risk of developing endocarditis.
The people with certain medical conditions, such as rheumatic fever or infection are also at risk because this infection usually damages or scars one or more of the heart valves. The already damaged heart valves are at high risk of endocarditis.
However, endocarditis can also occur in previously healthy individuals. The people having artificial heart valves are also at high risk of endocarditis because the germs can easily get attached to an artificial (prosthetic) heart valve than to a normal muscular heart valve.
The people having congenital heart defects are also at high risk of endocarditis. Such as, the people born with certain types of heart defects, like an abnormal heart valve or irregular heart are more susceptible to the infection than the normal people.
The people having a history of endocarditis can easily get it again because the first attack of endocarditis might have caused the damage of heart valves and tissue which increases the risk of future heart infection. the people with a history of intravenous illegal drug use are also at a greater risk of endocarditis. The needles used for this purpose are usually contaminated with the bacteria which enters the bloodstream via injecting the drugs.
When to see a Doctor
If a person develops the symptoms of endocarditis and these symptoms don’t get disappear with time. So, one should see a doctor to avoid future complications. The long untreated endocarditis can cause severe illness and can be life-threating.