The endocardium is the inner lining of the heart chambers and valves. Endocarditis is an infection of this lining. If not treated quickly, endocarditis can damage the heart and even lead to complications that can be life-threatening.
The cause of a person's endocarditis may be difficult for doctors to pinpoint because there are many ways to develop the condition. Typically endocarditis is caused by bacteria or fungi spreading to the heart through the bloodstream. These germs attached to damaged areas of the heart causing infection.
People are most at risk for developing endocarditis usually have artificial or damaged heart valves. Although endocarditis is rare in healthy people, it does occasionally occur. Treatments for the condition include antibiotics and sometimes surgery.
Symptoms of endocarditis include aching joints, fatigue, flu-like symptoms, or chest pain. Sometimes the condition is signaled by the onset of a new or changed heart murmur. Some of the ways bacteria can get into the bloodstream include daily health activities. Hygiene habits like toothbrushing, catheter usage, and dental procedures can allow infectious agents to enter the bloodstream. Also sharing needles from IV drug use, improperly sterilized tattoo needles or piercing equipment can cause this type of infection.
Some complications are possible in those with endocarditis. These complications can be fatal and include pulmonary embolism, seizure, heart failure, and stroke.
There are a few ways to prevent endocarditis. These include having good oral hygiene and avoiding unnecessary procedures that may lead to skin infections. Proper oral hygiene includes regular brushing and flossing as well as dental exams and cleanings.
In cases where infection is more likely, including some dental procedures, a doctor may prescribe preventive antibiotics to those at risk. This is more common in those who are susceptible to infection, particularly in light of growing concerns about over-prescribing antibiotics. If you may be at an elevated risk of endocarditis, you should alert your doctor or dentist. This can help them decide whether or not to prescribe antibiotics before any procedures.
In the above video, from Osmosis, Dr. Reshi Desai goes into detail about the signs, symptoms, and treatments for endocarditis.