Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart that can affect its electrical system and muscle, reducing its ability to pump blood. This can potentially cause a rapid heart rhythm, or arrhythmia.
Myocarditis can result from illnesses such as lupus, and it can cause other health complications.
That’s why it’s important to understand what causes myocarditis and how it can be treated.
Contact the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute to schedule an appointment.
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What Is Myocarditis?
Many symptoms of myocarditis are similar to those of other illnesses, although you may experience no symptoms. In mild cases, subtle symptoms include slight chest pain or shortness of breath. In advanced stages, symptoms of myocarditis may include:
- Stabbing and/or tightness of the chest, which can spread across the body
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty breathing while at rest
- Flu-like symptoms including headache, body aches, joint pain, fever, sore throat, and diarrhea
- Swelling of the legs, ankles, feet, or other body parts
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What Causes Myocarditis?
Myocarditis can result from a variety of conditions, including viral infections like Lyme disease or rheumatic fever, autoimmune diseases, environmental toxins, and even negative reactions to medications. Myocarditis also can develop at the same time as pericarditis, an inflammation of the lining of the heart.
Diagnosing and Treating Myocarditis
To diagnose myocarditis, your cardiologist will first review your medical history and check you for symptoms. Additional testing can include an echocardiogram, electrocardiogram, and chest x-ray, as well as blood tests.
Treatments for myocarditis vary based on its severity and cause. Your doctor will likely advise you to rest at home and avoid strenuous activity until your symptoms lessen. Advanced myocarditis, which can lead to heart failure or cardiac arrhythmia, may require more aggressive treatment such as:
- Medicines to treat or prevent cardiac arrhythmias
- A pacemaker
- Medicines to treat heart failure
- NSAIDS (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug) to relieve pain
- Anticoagulants to prevent blood clots
- Antibiotics to treat bacterial myocarditis
- Medicines to treat autoimmune diseases
For severe cases, the most aggressive treatments can include:
- IV medications
- Ventricular assist devices
- Intra-aortic balloon pumps
- Extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation
- Transplantation (in extreme cases)
Myocarditis may resolve on its own with rest.
Your cardiologist will pay close attention for signs of heart failure or arrhythmias and will recommend a course of action if they should occur. Regardless of the severity of your myocarditis, your cardiologist will likely to continue monitor your condition. If you are concerned that you may have myocarditis or would like more information about what causes myocarditis, contact the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute to schedule an appointment.
The UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute has long been a leader in cardiovascular care, with a rich history in clinical research and innovation. As one of the first heart transplant centers in the country and as the developer of one of the first heart-assist devices, UPMC has contributed to advancing the field of cardiovascular medicine.