One of the cardiac conditions treated by cardiologists Delray Beach Fl is endocarditis. While many cardiac diseases are caused by underlying congenital conditions that may be exacerbated by lifestyle choices, endocarditis is actually an infectious disease. Approximately 1 out of every 10,000 people in the U.S. will be hospitalized with endocarditis every year.
What Is Endocarditis?
Endocarditis is an infection that affects the inner lining of the heart. The most common causative bacteria are Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococci viridans and coagulase negative Staphylococci. These organisms are commonly found in the mouth and upper respiratory tract. They can enter the bloodstream through a variety of routes, including:
• Basic oral hygiene procedures that make your gums bleed
• Certain dental procedures
• Infections elsewhere in your body
• Contaminated needles used in tattooing, body piercing or IV drug abuse
In most instances, your immune system is able to destroy these bacteria before they are absorbed into your bloodstream and travel to your heart. If your immune system is compromised, however, or if your heart tissues have been damaged in the past, you’re at greater risk for developing endocarditis.
What Are the Symptoms of Endocarditis?
Endocarditis is often hard to diagnose. Initial symptoms may include:
• Fever with chills
• Night sweats
• Chest pain with breathing
• Edema in the legs, feet and/or abdomen
• Heart murmurs
The longer endocarditis goes unrecognized, the more damage it can do to heart tissues. If the infection goes too long without treatment, vegetations may form at the site of the infection, break off and travel to other parts of your body causing strokes, seizures, abscesses and emboli.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Endocarditis is usually diagnosed through blood tests and an echocardiogram. The blood tests will confirm the presence of bacteria while the echocardiogram will demonstrate the signs of infection.
Endocarditis is a serious medical condition that may involve hospitalization and treatment with intravenous antibiotics. Once your acute symptoms have subsided, you may be able to receive antibiotic infusions through a home-based nursing service. If the endocarditis is persistent and does not respond to antibiotics, you surgical intervention may be required.