Symptoms of Pericarditis

Pericarditis: Your heart is surrounded by a protective sac-like thick membrane known as the pericardium. It acts as a shock absorber and protects the heart. The irritation and swelling of this sac-like membrane is known as pericarditis. When the irritated membranes of the pericardium rub against each other, sharp pain occur. In addition to chest pain, pericarditis is associated with other symptoms as well.

Let us classify pericarditis in the following types based on the pattern of symptoms and the duration of the symptoms associated with it.

Acute pericarditis – the symptoms usually last for up to three weeks.
Acute pericarditis symptoms: sharp pain in the left side of your chest
The most common symptom of acute pericarditis is sharp, stabbing chest pain behind the breastbone.

Pericarditis Pain

Some people may have chest pain with varying intensity

Some people have pressure-like pain, achy or dull pain

The pain associated with acute pericarditis may radiate into the neck and left shoulder.

What makes pericarditis worse

Pericarditis gets aggravated when you inhale deeply or lie down or cough. The pain eases when you lean forward or sit up. Sometimes, it may be difficult to differentiate pain due to pericarditis from the pain due to a heart attack.

Incessant pericarditis – the symptoms may last for up to four to six weeks, but less than 3 months, but the condition persists.

Recurrent pericarditis – In this type of condition, pericarditis is recurrent – which means, it continues for up to four to six weeks from the onset of acute pericarditis and then there is a symptom-free interval in between.

Chronic Pericarditis – In this type of pericarditis, the symptoms last for more than three months.

Chronic Pericarditis symptoms: The most common and prominent symptom of chronic pericarditis is chest pain. Chronic inflammation associated with this condition may lead to an accumulation of fluid around the heart (pericardial effusion)

Symptoms of pericarditis, in general, include all or some of the following:

• Shortness of breath when reclining
• Intense and sharp chest pain in the centre (breastbone) or left side of the chest
• Chest pain is more intense when breathing in
• Heart palpitations
• Weakness, feeling sick or malaise
• Low-grade fever
• Cough
• Leg swelling o abdominal swelling

When to see a doctor

The sooner you see a doctor the better. If you get evaluated early and soon get diagnosed, you will receive the best treatment. Your approach to a specialist is important as the majority of the symptoms of pericarditis mimic other heart and lung issues. For instance, though the cause of acute chest pain may be pericarditis, the actual cause could be coronary heart disease, blood clot or heart attack or it could be pulmonary embolus (clot in the lungs). Therefore, you must seek immediate medical care if you develop any new symptoms related to your chest pain. Early diagnosis and treatment play an important role in reducing your risk of complications in the long-run.