What Is It?
Pericarditis is an inflammation of the pericardium, the saclike membrane around the heart. Pericarditis can be triggered by many, very different medical conditions. Often the exact cause cannot be identified. Doctors call this idiopathic pericarditis.
In many people with pericarditis, the initial trigger is a viral infection. However, the inflammation may not be a direct result of the infection. Instead, the virus may stimulate the immune system to attack and inflame the pericardium.
Other medical conditions associated with pericarditis include:
Other rare causes of pericarditis include radiation therapy to treat cancers in the chest, cancer in the chest area, a fungal infection or a parasitic infection.
Pericarditis can be:
The inflammation of pericarditis usually causes fluid to weep into the pericardial sac. This is known as a pericardial effusion. If the pericardial effusion is large enough, it can interfere with the heart's ability to fill normally and to pump blood, a condition called cardiac tamponade.
Sometimes, pericarditis leads to scarring of the lining around the heart. The inflamed pericardium thicken can thicken and contract around the heart, interfering with heart function. This condition is called constrictive pericarditis.
Page 1 of 9 Next Page: Pericarditis Symptoms
From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.
You can find more great health information on the Harvard Health Publications website.