Pericarditis is an infection of the pericardium, which is the thin, tough membrane surrounding the heart.

What is pericarditis?

Pericarditis is swelling and irritation of the pericardium, the thin saclike membrane surrounding your heart. It can be serious, coming on suddenly (acute pericarditis), or it can develop over a long period of time (chronic pericarditis). Pericarditis usually goes away on its own in a couple of weeks and it usually isn’t dangerous.

What are the symptoms of pericarditis?

Common symptoms of pericarditis include:

  • Sharp pain in the centre or left side of your chest. The pain may spread to the shoulder blade.
  • Pain may get worse when you cough, swallow, take deep breaths or lie flat. This pain is different from the chest pain you would experience with angina, which only lasts for a short time and gets better when you rest.
  • Mild fever, weakness, and feeling very tired.

What are the causes of pericarditis?

Many things can cause pericarditis, which can include:

What treatment is available for pericarditis?

Your doctor may suggest you try aspirin or ibuprofen to treat pain and inflammation. In some cases, your doctor may prescribe stronger medicine, such as colchicine or a steroid called prednisone.

Get plenty of rest. Avoid all strenuous activity that has not been approved by your doctor.

Follow your doctor's advice about which symptoms to watch for, such as shortness of breath or other signs of complications. If you experience complications or your condition gets worse, see your doctor for further treatment.

Resources

The following resources have information about the types, causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment for pericarditis: