Pericarditis is an inflammation of the pericardium, a sac surrounding the heart. The most common form is acute pericarditis, which can usually be treated without hospitalization. Common in adolescents and young adults, acute pericarditis affects males more than females. Pericardial effusion is a form that results when fluid builds up in the pericardium. It is a more serious condition that can require hospitalization and possibly surgery. Constrictive pericarditis is a form that is a chronic condition and worsens gradually over a long period of time. It may ultimately require surgery. Pericardial effusion and constrictive pericarditis can occur together.

Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of pericarditis vary somewhat.

Acute pericarditis: Pericardial effusion: Constrictive pericarditis:

What Causes It?

Acute pericarditis and pericardial effusion have a large number of possible causes, including viruses, bacteria, fungi, cancer, trauma to the heart (such as chest injury), drug reactions, and radiation exposure. In many cases, however, the actual cause is unknown. Constrictive pericarditis usually results from repeated cases of acute pericarditis.

What to Expect at Your Provider's Office

Your health care provider will listen to your heart and lungs, take your pulse, and probably tap your chest and back. Your provider will probably order a number of tests, which may include blood work, an electrocardiogram, an echocardiogram, chest X ray, computed tomography (CT) scan, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Treatment Options

Pericarditis is usually treated with aspirin or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen), but steroid medications may be prescribed.

Complementary and Alternative Therapies

Alternative therapies may have benefit as supportive treatments for some of the causes of pericarditis. Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) is a cardiac tonic with very low toxicity that could be used along with whatever therapy your provider deems most appropriate.

Nutrition Herbs
Herbs may be used as dried extracts (capsules, powders, teas), glycerites (glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Unless otherwise indicated, teas should be made with 1 tsp. herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 to 10 minutes for leaf or flowers, and 10 to 20 minutes for roots. Drink 2 to 4 cups per day. Homeopathy
Some of the most common remedies used for pericarditis are listed below. Usually, the dose is 3 to 5 pellets of a 12X to 30C remedy every one to four hours until your symptoms get better. Acupuncture
Can be very helpful in decreasing inflammation, enhancing immune response, and regulating cardiac function.

Following Up

Your provider may order a follow-up X ray or electrocardiogram.


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