Endocarditis

Updated Sept. 6, 2020

Endocarditis is an infection of the endocardium (the inner lining of the heart chambers) and/or the valves in the heart. It is often called infective endocarditis, even though it is not always caused by infection. Deposits can accumulate on the valves and be infectious (commonly bacterial or fungal growths) or non-bacterial thrombotic.

Endocarditis vegetations on a heart valve. BruceBlaus, CC4.0 license

Symptoms of Endocarditis

  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath
  • Edema (swelling/water retention in the extremities)
  • Petechiae (red spots on the skin)
  • Weight loss

Risk Factors for Endocarditis

  • Damaged or artificial heart valves
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Autoimmune disorders (e.g., systemic lupus erythematosus)
  • Infection in the gums or mouth (leading to bacteremia)
  • Previous experience with infective endocarditis

Libman-Sacks

This is a specific name given to endocarditis caused by autoimmunity. It can occur in conjunction with lupus, but also antiphospholipid syndrome and certain malignancies. It is a form non-bacterial thrombotic endocarditis, with sterile (i.e., non-infectious) vegetations on the heart valves.

Treatment of Endocarditis

  • Antibiotics
  • Treatment of underlying cause
  • Surgery to correct heart defects

Prevention of Endocarditis

  • Brush and floss teeth regularly, with regular check-ups to prevent infection
  • Prophylactic antibiotics before procedures in those at high risk
  • Surgical correction of damaged valves or congenital defects
  • Regular exams of artificial valve function

Disclaimer: This page is for informational and learning purposes only. It is not meant to diagnose or treat any medical condition and should not be used in place of speaking with a medical doctor or seeking treatment.

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