Myocarditis is an inflammatory disease of the heart, resulting from a number of causes, usually infection. The human heart is a very important organ of the body, which is why any illness affecting it should not be taken lightly. Myocarditis affects individuals of any age and can lead to heart failure or death.
Development of Myocarditis
The most common cause of myocarditis is infection. Any organ can be affected by infection, and the heart is no exception. Bacterial causes of myocarditis include the bacteria that causes Lyme borreliosis, among other things, which is a disease transmitted by ticks. Coxsackieviruses can also cause myocarditis as well as polio viruses, echo viruses or flu viruses. Myocarditis can even develop due to an autoimmune disorder, where the cells of the immune system attack their own tissue. This causes organ damage, including damage to the heart muscle. But these cases are rather rare.
Symptoms of Myocarditis
Symptoms of myocarditis may not always be present, however if they are, the manifestations are unspecific and can appear in a number of different illnesses, making it difficult to diagnose this disease. Symptoms of myocarditis include shortness of breath, chest pain, heart palpitations, fatigue and weakness. Flu-like symptoms can also appear, such as a sore throat, head and muscle aches. Vomiting and diarrhea are common as well. Symptoms are sometimes similar to those of a heart attack. In newborns, myocarditis is manifested by a fever, shortness of breath, heart failure and cyanosis (nails, fingers and toes turning blue).
Diagnosing myocarditis is not easy by any means, but is essential especially in children. A diagnosis begins with an individual's personal physical examination, where he or she notices an increased heart rate, triple heartbeat, poorly palpable pulse or an enlarged liver. The only reliable method to detect myocarditis is a biopsy, i.e. testing a sample of the heart tissue. This however, is reserved only for special or serious cases. The results of other tests are typically used, which can confirm myocarditis or exclude other illness, making myocarditis a more likely diagnosis. These results are taken from electrocardiograms (EKG) or ultrasounds, blood tests and other tests.
Treatment of Myocarditis
The treatment of myocarditis is based on bed rest, special diet and pharmacotherapy; medications administered to prevent heart failure. ACE-inhibitors are administered, which reduce heart damage, as well as inotropic agents that enhance ventricular contractions and thus help pump blood into the body. Last but not least, diuretics are given in order to release fluids from the body. Corticoids are controversial and are not recommended in the acute stages of the disease.
Consequences of Myocarditis
In most cases, patients due not suffer from any long-term effects after myocarditis, though excessive dilation (stretching) of the heart wall can occur. This worsens the heart's ability to pump blood into the body. Along with other disorders, heart failure is a possibility following myocarditis. Another consequence of myocarditis can be an abnormal heart rhythm i.e. arrhythmia and in serious cases, myocarditis can cause sudden death of the individual.