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Endocarditis is a serious condition that affects the inner lining of the heart chambers and valves. It occurs when bacteria or fungi enter the bloodstream and attach to the damaged areas of the heart. If left untreated, endocarditis can lead to life-threatening complications. It is important to recognize the symptoms and seek medical attention promptly. In this article, we will explore the various symptoms of endocarditis and discuss its treatment options.

Fever, Chills, and Fatigue

One of the common symptoms of endocarditis is a persistent fever. The body’s immune response to the infection can cause an elevated body temperature. Along with fever, patients may experience chills and fatigue. These symptoms are often mistaken for a common cold or flu, but it is crucial to consider endocarditis as a potential cause.

Muscle and Joint Pain

Endocarditis can also cause muscle and joint pain. The infection can trigger an inflammatory response in the body, leading to discomfort and stiffness in the muscles and joints. This pain is often described as a dull ache and can affect multiple areas of the body.

Shortness of Breath and Chest Pain

As endocarditis progresses, it can affect the heart’s ability to pump blood effectively. This can result in symptoms such as shortness of breath and chest pain. Patients may feel breathless even with minimal physical exertion. Chest pain can range from mild discomfort to severe pressure or tightness.

Cough and Headache

In some cases, endocarditis can cause a persistent cough and headache. The infection can irritate the respiratory system, leading to a cough that does not resolve with over-the-counter cough medications. Headaches may occur due to the increased pressure in the blood vessels supplying the brain.

Swollen Feet and Legs

Fluid retention is a common symptom of endocarditis. The heart’s compromised function can lead to fluid accumulation in the lower extremities, resulting in swollen feet and legs. This swelling may worsen throughout the day and improve with elevation.

Blood in Urine and Abdominal Pain

In rare cases, endocarditis can cause blood in the urine and abdominal pain. The infection can affect the kidneys, leading to blood leakage into the urine. Abdominal pain may occur due to the inflammation of the abdominal organs.

Nausea, Vomiting, and Weight Loss

Endocarditis can also cause gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and weight loss. The infection can disrupt the normal functioning of the digestive system, leading to these symptoms. Weight loss may occur due to a decreased appetite and the body’s increased metabolic demands during the infection.

Skin Rashes

Some individuals with endocarditis may develop skin rashes. These rashes can vary in appearance and may be red, purple, or brown in color. They are often small and flat, resembling tiny dots. Skin rashes can occur due to the immune response triggered by the infection.

Treatment and Prevention

Endocarditis requires prompt medical intervention. The treatment typically involves a combination of antibiotics to eliminate the infection. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to repair or replace damaged heart valves. It is important to complete the full course of antibiotics as prescribed by the healthcare provider to ensure the infection is completely eradicated.

Prevention plays a crucial role in reducing the risk of endocarditis. Individuals with certain heart conditions, such as artificial heart valves or a history of endocarditis, may require antibiotics before certain dental or surgical procedures. This is known as antibiotic prophylaxis and aims to prevent bacteria from entering the bloodstream during these procedures.

Tips for a Healthy Heart

  • Maintain good oral hygiene to prevent oral infections that can lead to endocarditis.
  • Follow a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
  • Engage in regular physical activity to keep your heart healthy.
  • Avoid smoking and limit alcohol consumption.
  • Manage chronic conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
  • Seek medical attention promptly if you experience any symptoms of endocarditis.

In conclusion, endocarditis is a serious condition that can have life-threatening complications if left untreated. Recognizing the symptoms and seeking medical attention promptly is crucial for a successful outcome. By understanding the symptoms and following preventive measures, individuals can reduce their risk of developing endocarditis and maintain a healthy heart.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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