Inflammation of heart muscle tissue
What is myocarditis?
Myocarditis is a condition where the heart muscle (myocardium) becomes inflamed. The condition is not affected by lifestyle and it cannot be prevented, therefore it can affect anyone, at any age. While many people recover from the condition, it can lead to heart failure in rare cases.
What causes myocarditis?
Myocarditis is usually caused by;
A viral, bacterial or fungal infection. In the UK, the most common infections causing myocarditis are viruses called Coxsackie B and adenovirus.
A chest infection
An autoimmune disease (when a person’s own immune system attacks their body)
Sometimes the cause is unknown (idiopathic myocarditis)
What are the symptoms of myocarditis?
The symptoms depend on the cause and severity of the condition. As myocarditis can be brought on by an infection or autoimmune condition, people usually develop symptoms around two weeks after initial illness. The symptoms may include;
Chest pain and tightness, which may spread across the body
Shortness of breath
Finding is hard to breathe
Feelings of exhaustion
Flu-like symptoms (high temperature, tiredness and fatigue)
Palpitations or an irregular heart rhythm
How is myocarditis diagnosed?
Your consultant will discuss your symptoms with you to help make a diagnosis. If you’ve had persistent symptoms for some time, they may order the following tests; an electrocardiogram (ECG) (measures the electrical activity of your heart) to check for abnormal heart rhythm, blood tests (which might confirm an infection), an echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart) to detect any heart muscle damage, and a cardiac MRI or an FDG PET scan.
How is myocarditis treated?
Your consultant will discuss treatment options with you and help to determine the best approach. In many cases, symptoms will either resolve on their own or with the use of antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medicine. In prolonged cases, myocarditis might affect your heart muscle and tissue, meaning you could develop heart failure. In this case, you may need medicines or cardiac devices to prevent or treat heart failure. If damage is very severe you could be considered for a heart transplant.
Keeping your heart healthy involves maintaining an active lifestyle and identifying any potentially dangerous heart problems before they become more severe.