Endocarditis is an infection affecting the heart’s inner lining (called the endocardium) or the valves of the heart.

CausesWhen bacteria or another infective orgasm enters the bloodstream, it can build up on the heart’s valve or inner lining where damage has occurred. This can cause endocarditis, which may be life-threatening if not treated quickly.

Endocarditis can be caused if you:

  • have had heart valve surgery using an artificial valve
  • suffer from damage to your heart valves
  • have congenital heart disease
  • have been diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
  • are an intravenous drug user
  • have poor dental hygiene (allowing bacteria to enter your bloodstream)

SymptomsThe symptoms of endocarditis develop slowly over weeks and sometimes months, and can often be difficult to notice. In rare cases, they can present suddenly.

The most common symptoms are:

  • flu like symptoms with a high temperature (including fever and chills)
  • unexplained weight loss
  • paleness
  • aching muscles and joints
  • a heart murmur (an abnormal heart sound)
  • weakness
  • fatigue
  • night sweats
  • shortness of breath
  • a persistent cough
  • swelling in the feet, legs or abdomen
  • blood in urine
  • tenderness in the spleen

Diagnosis Diagnosing endocarditis usually involves the following tests:

  • Blood tests to find out the type of bacteria
  • An echocardiogram to see signs of damage in the heart
  • An electrocardiogram (ECG) to look for an abnormal heart rhythm
  • A chest X-ray to check for fluid build up
  • An MRI scan to get a clearer image of the heart

TreatmentIn most instances, endocarditis can be treated with long-term courses of antibiotics administered intravenously. In more severe cases, a heart valve replacement may be required if the heart is not pumping effectively or the infection has failed to respond to the antibiotics.