Endocarditis

The endocardium is the inner lining of the heart. Endocarditis is an infection of this inner lining. Endocarditis generally occurs when bacteria, fungi or other germs from the environment or another part of your body, such as your mouth, spread through your bloodstream and attach to heart valves. If not treated quickly, endocarditis can damage or destroy your heart valves and lead to life-threatening complications.

Endocarditis

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Types of Endocarditis

  • Infectious (bacterial) endocarditis: This type of endocarditis is characterized by an infection caused by bacteria or fungi that enter the bloodstream and settle in the heart lining, a heart valve or a blood vessel. This type of endocarditis is uncommon, but people with some heart conditions have a greater risk of developing it.
  • Non-infectious (non-bacterial) endocarditis: This type of endocarditis is characterized by various kinds of illnesses affecting the heart valves, most often the left side of the heart. The disease may be the first step in development of infectious endocarditis.

Causes of Endocarditis

The bacteria that live in your mouth, throat or other parts of your body, such as your skin or your gut, can sometimes cause serious infections like endocarditis. However, other conditions, traits or habits may also raise your risk for the disease. These conditions are known as risk factors and include:

Non-modifiable risk factors: These factors are irreversible and cannot be changed. The more of these risk factors you have, the greater your chance of developing endocarditis.

  • Family history/Genetics

Modifiable risk factors: These factors can be modified, treated or controlled through medications or lifestyle changes.

  • Drug use
  • Brushing your teeth or other activities that can cause your gums to bleed.

Other conditions that contribute to developing endocarditis

  • Certain dental procedures
  • Contaminated needles
  • Infections such as skin sores and sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease: a group of disorders that cause chronic inflammation of your digestive tract.
  • Any type of catheters, including those that stay in your body for a longer period of time such as urinary catheters.

Symptoms of Endocarditis

Endocarditis may develop slowly or rapidly depending on what germs are causing the infection, your immunity, and whether you have any underlying heart problems. Endocarditis signs and symptoms can vary from person to person. Common symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Blood in your urine
  • Chest pain
  • Decreased appetite
  • Involuntary weight loss
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Night sweats
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling in your feet, legs or abdomen
Your doctor may also find some signs, such as:
  • Enlarged, tender spleen
  • Heart murmur: a whooshing or swishing sound heard by your doctor through a stethoscope.
  • Enlarged heart
  • Other skin manifestations of bacterial endocarditis such as janeway lesions, osler nodes or petechiae.

Diagnosis of Endocarditis

Your doctor may suspect endocarditis based on your medical history, signs and symptoms you're experiencing, and your test results. A diagnosis of endocarditis is usually based on several factors instead of a single positive test result or symptom. Your doctor may also order the following:

Diagnostic tests and procedures

Treatment of Endocarditis

Once endocarditis occurs, quick treatment is necessary to prevent damage to the heart valves and more serious complications such heart failure, and even death. Treatment options include:

Lifestyle changes

  • Avoid smoking
  • Decrease your alcohol or caffeinated beverage consumption.
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet
  • Exercise under the directions of your doctor.
  • Fluid restriction
  • No more than 7-8 hours of sleep per day.
  • Make and keep appointments to see your doctor for routine check-ups and follow-up tests.

Medications

  • Antibiotics will help treat disease caused by bacteria.

Medical and surgical procedures

Saint Barnabas Medical Center
94 Old Short Hills Road
Livingston, NJ 07039
(973) 322-5000
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Newark Beth Israel Medical Center
201 Lyons Avenue at Osborne Terrace
Newark, NJ 07112
(973) 926-7000
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Jersey City Medical Center
355 Grand Street
Jersey City, NJ 07302
(201) 915-2000
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Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
1 Robert Wood Johnson Place
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
(732) 828-3000
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Endocarditis Treatment & Care

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