Endocarditis is an inflammation of the endocardium, a membrane that covers connective tissue in heart valves and lines heart chambers. Most cases are caused by a bacterial infection. Endocarditis is a serious ailment that can lead to severe medical complications, and can even be fatal if not treated.
Signs and SymptomsThe most common symptom of endocarditis is fever. The fever may be high or low, and it may seem to come and go. Other common symptoms include the following.
- Skin sores
- Night sweats
- Discomfort or uneasiness
- Muscle, joint, back pain
- Muscle weakness
- Stiff neck
- Heart attack
- Difficulty speaking
- Cold, painful hands and feet
- Small purplish spots on skin
- Bloody urine
- Bloody phlegm
- Painful tips of fingers or toes
- Shortness of breath
- Unnatural pallor
What Causes It?Most of the causes of endocarditis are related to a bacterial infection. Heart conditions that increase your risk include having mechanical heart valves, a previous case of endocarditis, heart defects and dysfunctions, and degenerative heart disease. Dental and surgical procedures that increase your risk of infective endocarditis include dental procedures that irritate the gums, tonsillectomy, adenoidectomy, intestinal and respiratory surgery, gallbladder surgery, cystoscopy, bronchoscopy, and vaginal delivery with an infection present.
What to Expect at Your Provider's OfficeYour health care provider will listen to your heart and lungs, take your pulse, and check your eyes and skin. Your provider likely will order a number of tests, which could include blood tests, urine analysis, an echocardiogram, a computed tomography scan, and a cinefluoroscopy (a motion-picture type heart scan). In most cases, your provider will admit you to the hospital, possibly in intensive care, until your condition is better understood and your symptoms are under control.
Treatment OptionsEndocarditis is treated with antibiotics, almost always intravenously. In some cases, surgery is also required.
Drug TherapiesInfective endocarditis is usually treated with a combination of two or even three antibiotics, such as penicillin, gentamicin, vancomycin, cefazolin, ceftriaxone, nafcillin, oxacillin, rifampin, and ampicillin. Treatment generally takes two to six weeks.
Complementary and Alternative TherapiesEndocarditis has serious ramifications and requires aggressive medical treatment. Alternative therapies may be used concurrently to help reduce severity, duration, and progression of disease.
- To support immune function, include vitamins C (1,000 mg up to three times a day), E (400 to 800 IU a day), A (10,000 IU/day) or beta-carotene (100,000 IU a day), selenium (200 mcg a day), and zinc (30 mg a day).
- Coenzyme Q10 (100 mg twice a day) protects the heart.
- Magnesium (200 to 500 mg two to three times a day) for normal cardiac function. Do not take if you have kidney damage.
- Bromelain (250 to 500 mg three times a day between meals) is a proteolytic enzyme that may increase the effectiveness of antibiotic therapy.
Herbs may be used as dried extracts (capsules, powders, teas), glycerites (glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Teas should be made with 1 tsp. herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 to 10 minutes for leaf or flowers, 10 to 20 minutes for roots. Drink 2 to 4 cups per day.
- For long-term cardiac support combine the following herbs in a tea (3 cups per day) or tincture (30 to 60 drops three times a day): 2 parts hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) with 1 part each motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) and linden flowers (Tilia cordata). Use additional herbs from the following categories as needed.
- Cardiac arrhythmias: Add 1 part each lily of the valley (Convalleria majalis) and night-blooming cereus (Selenicereus grandiflorus) to the cardiac formula above. These herbs must be used with caution and under a health care provider's supervision.
- Hawthorn berry (Crataegus laevigata) can be helpful in decreasing arrhythmias. Use 1/2 tsp. of the solid extract, or 1,000 mg three times per day.
- Infection: Combine equal parts of four to six of the following herbs: coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), goldenseal root (Hydrastis canadensis), wild indigo (Baptisia tinctoria), myrrh (Commiphora molmol), garlic (Allium sativum), rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis). For acute infection take 60 drops of tincture every two hours. For chronic infections or for prophylaxis, take 30 to 60 drops three times per day.
- Renal involvement: Combine equal parts of bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva ursi), cleavers (Galium aparine), dandelion leaf (Taraxacum officinale), black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa), yarrow (Achillea millefolium), and corn silk (Zea mays). Drink 3 cups per day.
Some of the most common remedies for this condition are listed below.
- Aconite if you fear death, have rapid heartbeat (tachycardia) with full, hard bounding pulse of sudden onset
- Cactus grandiflorus for endocarditis with mitral insufficiency. You may have a feeble, irregular pulse and feel a chest constriction.
- Digitalis if you have an irregular pulse with a sensation as if your heart would stop if you moved
- Spongia if you have a sensation of the heart swelling
Following UpIn addition to monitoring your condition while you are in the hospital, your health care provider will order follow-up procedures, such as blood tests, to determine how well the prescribed treatment is working.
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