Reputed specialist in Cardiology, Dr. Joan Alguersuari explains what pericarditis is, as well as its diagnosis, evolution and possible treatment.
What is pericarditis?
Pericarditis is mainly an inflammation of the pericardium, the tissue that surrounds the heart, whose purpose is to facilitate cardiac contraction and relaxation movements.
Through what symptoms can we detect that we are suffering from it?
The most common symptom is chest pain, and it can be quite similar to the pain caused by a myocardial infarction, i.e. a heart attack. The main difference is that the pain is usually worse with deep breathing and with changes in position, getting worse when lying down and better when sitting up.
How is it diagnosed?
The main method for diagnosis is the electrocardiogram (ECG) because it usually shows alterations that make it possible to establish the problem.
The drawback is that often, these alterations are also similar to those that appear in patients with myocardial infarction, so that it can sometimes be difficult to differentiate between the two diseases, which is of vital importance, because their treatment is completely different.
Risk factors and prevention of pericarditis
There are many different unrelated causes of pericarditis. The most frequent are infections, generally due to viruses which, after suffering a cold or apparently mild diarrhea, can “jump” to the pericardium, inflaming it and triggering pericarditis. Another frequent cause of pericarditis is cancer, since when it spreads it can affect the pericardium causing inflammation at this level.
Unlike other heart diseases, in most cases, pericarditis cannot be prevented.
How is it treated?
In Cardiology, the treatment will depend on the cause that provokes it. When pericarditis is caused by an infection, it can be treated with anti-inflammatory drugs.
When the cause is cancer, the treatment is the same as for this disease and will be different depending on whether it is breast, lung or any other location. Although in the latter case the treatment options are usually reduced because pericarditis usually indicates that the tumor is widespread and the prognosis is usually poor.