Endocarditis is a rare, potentially fatal infection of the endocardium, or inner lining of the heart. It is usually caused by bacteria traveling through the bloodstream to the heart and is treated by IV antibiotics or heart valve replacement surgery.
As strange as it may sound, advances in medical technology are responsible for a growing number of cases of endocarditis.
Endocarditis, also known as infectious endocarditis, is an infection of the endocardium, or inner lining of the heart.
For most healthy individuals, the heart is well protected from infection. But for those with artificial materials in their heart or a condition that weakens their heart, it’s important to keep an eye out for symptoms of this potentially fatal condition.
Endocarditis is typically caused by bacteria. (Streptococci, staphylococci, and enterococci infections cause about
The bacteria that cause endocarditis may enter your body through a cut in your skin, a
In addition to damaging the heart, small clumps of bacteria may form at the infection site. In some cases, they can act like a blood clot and travel through the body. They may potentially block the blood supply to an organ, which can result in organ failure or a stroke.
In very rare cases, endocarditis may be due to a fungal infection instead of bacteria. These cases are usually harder to treat and more serious. Individuals with weakened immune systems from conditions like HIV or chemotherapy may be unable to prevent the fungal infection from growing in their body and are at greater risk for this type of endocarditis.
Symptoms of endocarditis may include:
- high fever
- muscle and joint pain
- night sweats
- shortness of breath
- new or changing heart murmur
- loss of appetite and weight loss
- petechiae (small red, brown, or purple spots on the skin)
- small, painless red spots on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet
- painful red spots on your fingertips and the pads of your toes
- narrow lines of blood under your fingernails
Many of the symptoms of endocarditis are common with other health conditions, so it’s important for doctors to rule out other potential health concerns through blood testing and scans. If endocarditis continues untreated, it may lead to other life threatening conditions like:
Men are two times more likely than women to experience endocarditis.
Individuals may be at a greater risk for endocarditis if they have:
- heart valve disease or certain congenital heart defects
- pacemaker or defibrillator
- heart valve replacement
- poor dental hygiene
- a long-term central venous line
- already had endocarditis
- injected illegal drugs
- a condition that weakens their immune system
- IV drug use
People 65 and older also have a greater risk of developing endocarditis because changes to the heart valves that occur over time may create additional spots for germs to attach.
It’s important to keep in mind that endocarditis is rare, and most healthy individuals are not at high risk for this condition.
Endocarditis is a rare, but potentially fatal infection of the endocardium, which is the inner lining of the heart. It’s typically caused by a bacterial infection that travels through the bloodstream to your heart.
If you are showing signs of endocarditis, it’s important to get medical assistance right away. Serious conditions like sepsis, stroke, and heart failure can develop if it’s not treated quickly.