Pericarditis:Symptoms, Causes and Available Treatment

Pericarditis: Symptoms, Causes and Available Treatment

01 Mar 2021

Pericarditis is the inflammation of the pericardium—the thin sac or tissue that surrounds the heart and holds it in place. There’s a little fluid between the pericardium’s outer and inner layers that prevents the layers from rubbing against each other when the heart contracts and relaxes.

In most cases, pericarditis is characterized by sharp chest pain. The chest pain develops when the irritated layers of your pericardium rub against each other. While there may be a few severe cases of pericarditis, most cases are mild and usually clear without treatment.

But as far as your health is concerned, it’s better to check in with your doctor for a proper diagnosis. Early diagnosis, detection, and treatment can help to reduce the risk of complications from pericarditis.

Most common types of pericarditis include:

  • Acute pericarditis – It happens suddenly and lasts for less than three weeks. However, similar episodes may occur in the future.
  • Recurrent Pericarditis – It happens about four to six weeks after the symptoms of acute pericarditis first appear. Usually, no symptoms are experienced in between that time.
  • Incessant Pericarditis – Symptoms continue and last for less than three months.
  • Chronic constrictive pericarditis – Develops slowly and usually lasts for more than three months.

If you think that you may have pericarditis, seek an ER near you for an immediate diagnosis and treatment regardless of the stage. If you’re looking for an emergency room in Houston, visit or call Memorial Village ER.

Symptoms of Pericarditis

It’s somehow challenging to know whether chest pain is linked with pericarditis or another condition with similar symptoms such as heart attack or angina.

However, if you notice any other of the following symptoms, it could be pericarditis:

  • Chest pain
  • Abnormal heart rhythms
  • A sharp/stabbing pain in the chest
  • Dry Cough
  • Abdominal or leg swelling
  • Low-grade fever
  • Fatigue or weaknesses
  • Shortness of breath when lying down
  • Racing or pounding heartbeat

If you or your family members are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you should seek an ER for pericarditis. The doctor will check your symptoms and may perform some tests to examine whether you have pericarditis or not. The doctor will prescribe medication depending on the condition causing the symptoms.

Causes of Pericarditis

Generally, the causes of pericarditis aren’t easily identified. If the doctor can’t find what’s causing the condition, it’s usually referred to as idiopathic pericarditis. Men aged 20 to 50 years are at a higher risk of developing pericarditis.
Common causes of pericarditis include:

  • Bacterial or viral infection
  • Heart surgery or heart attack – may trigger pericarditis.
  • Systemic inflammatory disorders such as rheumatic arthritis or lupus
  • Trauma – caused by heart or chest injuries
  • Other chronic disorders such as AIDs, kidney failure, cancer, and tuberculosis
  • Radiation therapy

If pericarditis isn’t diagnosed and treated earlier, it can progress to long-term complications such as:

  • Pericardial effusion
  • Chronic constrictive pericarditis
  • Cardiac tamponade

When to See a Doctor

Seek immediate medical attention if you develop any recurring symptoms of pericarditis that we’ve discussed above. It’s important to note that symptoms of pericarditis are similar to those of lung and heart disease. The sooner the condition can be evaluated, the better and faster it can be treated. Memorial Village ER  offers a 24-hour emergency room for pericarditis.


Once you visit the doctor, you’ll be examined and asked a few questions regarding your symptoms and medical history. If the doctor suspects you have pericarditis, a chest exam using a stethoscope will be done to listen to your heart rhythms.

If it’s pericarditis, a pericardial rub sound will be heard – the sound occurs due to the rubbing of the pericardium layers. Besides a chest exam, a doctor may also recommend blood tests to check for inflammation, infection, or heart attack signs.

Other tests for pericarditis include:

  • Chest X-Rays
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG)
  • Echocardiogram
  • Cardiac computerized tomography scan
  • Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging

Treatment for Pericarditis

Treatment for pericarditis will depend on the cause and severity of the symptoms. Mild pericarditis usually gets better without treatment. Treatment may include:

  • Pain-relievers medications such as aspirin and ibuprofen
  • Rest
  • Diuretic to get rid of excess fluid from the pericardium
  • Anti-Inflammation medication such as colchicine
  • Pericardiocentesis – Surgical drainage of excess fluid
  • Surgical pericardectomy – removes the pericardium. The procedure doesn’t cause any harm.
  • Antibiotics for infections
  • Medications for arrhythmia

Diagnosing your condition earlier can help to prevent serious medical treatment such as surgery. If you’re looking for a diagnosis or treatment for pericarditis, visit Memorial Village ER emergency clinic in Houston.

Call Now Check-In Online