What is Heart Infection?

This condition can lead to heart damage and life-threatening complications and is also known as cardiac infection and heart valve infection. Bacteria, viruses, and, rarely, fungi can cause a heart infection.

The infection can be located at any of the three main layers of the heart. Among different types of heart infection, here is some of them:

  • Endocarditis is an infection in the most inner layer of the heart (endocardium) and is the most common type of heart infection. It occurs in people with pre-existing valve disease and other heart problems. Treatment usually requires hospitalization.
  • Myocarditis, this type of infection, is rare, and it happens in the middle muscular layer of the heart (myocardium).
  • Pericarditis is an infection or inflammation in the outer layer that covers the heart (pericardium). This condition is the most common cause. It typically occurs from a viral infection in men between 20 and 50 years old, and usually, people recover with treatment and rest.

In some cases, a heart infection can cause life-threatening complications. Seek immediate medical attention if you have any of these symptoms, including:

  • Chest pain
  • Disorientation or difficulty understanding speech
  • Drooping on one side of the face
  • Severe headache
  • Inability to speak
  • Sudden vision changes
  • Sudden numbness, weakness, or paralysis on one side of the body or face
    Even if you do not have all of these potentially life-threatening symptoms, it is highly recommended to seek medical care for one or more signs of heart infection.

What causes Heart Infection?

Endocarditis caused by bacteria is the most common cause of a heart infection. The bacteria can get into your bloodstream in different ways, including:

  • Skin, mouth, lungs, gut, or urinary tract infection
  • Gum disease or with certain dental procedures.
  • Tattoos or body piercings

What are the risk factors for heart infection?

It is difficult for the immune system to reach white blood cells to fight infection as they do not have a direct blood supply. People with the following conditions are at the highest risk of developing endocarditis:

  • Artificial heart valves or pacemaker
  • Congenital heart conditions
  • Damaged heart valves
  • Hemodialysis
  • HIV
  • IV drug abuse
  • Medical history of endocarditis

You may be able to lower your risk of endocarditis by:

  • Avoiding skin infections
  • keeping cuts clean
  • Seek medical care for sores that do no heal properly.
  • Keeping regular dental care
  • People at risk of developing endocarditis may need antibiotics before specific dental procedures.

How is Heart Infection Treated?

Antibiotics are the primary treatment for endocarditis, and it will depend on what is causing the infection. Sometimes it may require hospitalization. In severe or persistent cases, surgery may be necessary to remove the source of infection and prevent complications.

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