Myocarditis is an inflammation of the Heart Muscle (myocardium). Myocarditis leads to the reduced ability of the heart to pump blood adequately. It may also lead to weak heart muscles and affect the electrical system of the heart. In addition, myocarditis can also cause arrhythmias or abnormal heart rhythms. Myocarditis gradually weakens the heart and its pumping ability – owing to which the rest of the body doesn’t get enough blood. The condition may lead to a heart attack and brain stroke.

What are the signs and symptoms of Myocarditis?

The signs and symptoms of myocarditis include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Chest pain
  • Arrhythmias (abnormal heartbeats)
  • Light-headedness
  • Fatigue
  • Pressure in the chest, stabbing chest pain spreading to the neck and shoulders
  • Signs of infection include fever, headache, muscle aches, sore throat and diarrhoea

Myocarditis Causes

The major cause of myocarditis is a viral infection. It can also be due to bacterial and fungal infections, a reaction to a drug and also may be due to an autoimmune reaction.

Microbial Infections

When viruses enter in and cause infections, our body produces cells. These disease-fighting cells enter the heart and release certain chemicals that inflame heart muscles. Some of the common viruses that cause heart inflammation include hepatitis C viruses, cytomegaloviruses (CMV), Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), Coxsackie B viruses, Parvovirus, HIV and herpes. Bacteria that can cause myocarditis include treponema (causes syphilis), staphylococcus, streptococcus (causes strep throat), Borrelia (causes Lyme disease), mycoplasma (causes lung infection), chlamydia (sexually transmitted disease). Parasitic and fungal infections can also cause myocarditis.

Chemicals & Drugs

Certain drugs, lead poisoning, alcohol consumption can also cause heart inflammation. Some other chemicals and allergic reactions to chemicals, drugs and medicines and also to certain toxins can cause myocarditis. Snakebites, wasp stings, bees’ stings and spider bites can also lead to inflammation and myocarditis.

Cancer therapies involving chemotherapy, immunotherapies, drug therapies and radiation therapies can also lead to the heart inflammation.

Autoimmune Disorders

An autoimmune disease that causes inflammation throughout your body, like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, may also lead to heart inflammation.

Rheumatoid arthritis that affects joints throughout the body and lupus are the autoimmune disorders that may lead to myocarditis due to generalized inflammation throughout the body. The symptoms associated with such conditions may include swollen joints, legs and veins, painful joints, less urine output.

Diagnosis of Myocarditis

Myocarditis diagnosis: A cardiologist may check for a rapid or abnormal heartbeat if a person is presented with the above signs and symptoms of heart inflammation – such as fatigue, chest pain, shortness of breath and abnormal or irregular heartbeats. The other symptoms may include swollen legs and joints and fluid in the lungs. The cardiologist may also order certain blood tests to check for blood cells count, antibodies and infection. A heart ultrasound, electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) to measure the heart’s electrical activity and cardiac MRI scans may also be ordered.

When to Seek an Appointment with a Cardiologist?

Call your cardiologist straight away if you have had an infection and subsequently, your condition got worsen due to severe symptoms such as chest pain, swelling, trouble breathing. Furthermore, if you have been told that you have heart inflammation then seek medical help if you start experiencing the symptoms gradually and if the symptoms are getting worse.

Bottom Line

Myocarditis is quite often very disguising as the person who has this condition looks healthy. Which means there are no symptoms at all. In certain cases, some people recover and never know that they once had this condition. Anyway, the best way to prevent it from happening is to treat infections as quickly as possible. One should remain very careful with viral oral and strep throat infections as they are the leading cause of myocarditis.