Autoimmune pericarditis (AP) is a condition in which the lining around a person’s heart becomes inflamed due to their immune system mistakenly attacking it.
This article explains what AP is and its symptoms and causes. The article also explores how doctors diagnose and treat the condition and the potential outlook for people living with AP.
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This lining comprises
However, inflammation may cause the layers to rub against a person’s heart. This, in turn, may cause chest pain and other pericarditis symptoms.
A range of conditions can lead to pericarditis. Healthcare professionals often group these causes into either infections or other types of health conditions. However, in
If a person has AP, their own immune system is the cause. It mistakenly attacks their pericardium, causing inflammation. According to 2022 research,
According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service, the principal symptom of pericarditis is chest pain that typically:
- causes a sharp or stabbing sensation
- spreads to a person’s arms, shoulders, or abdomen
- gets better when someone leans forward
- gets worse when someone:
Some other symptoms people may experience include:
Having certain autoimmune disorders may
These disorders may cause a range of symptoms. However, some autoimmune conditions may not cause any symptoms in the early stages. Additionally, some conditions can cause people to have AP that comes and goes over a long period of time.
Pericarditis can affect people at any age. However, males ages
Research suggests that people with AP tend to be younger. They also often have heart problems as well.
A note about sex and gender
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If a person has chest pain, they may have AP. However, the pain may also be a sign of something that requires urgent treatment. Doctors always check for
To diagnose AP, doctors also typically review a person’s medical history, including if they have experienced:
- autoimmune conditions
- recent heart attack
- a history of chest trauma, such as surgery or accidents
- tuberculosis (TB)
- recent viral infection
- kidney disease
- recent symptoms, which may include:
- new rash
- aching joints
A healthcare professional may also ask a person to describe their chest pain. Pericarditis has a specific location and type of pain that doctors look for.
They may also examine a person using a stethoscope. The healthcare professional will listen for a characteristic sound that they may refer to as a “pericardial friction rub.”
Additionally, doctors may also order tests, including:
Finally, a healthcare professional may suggest other types of diagnostic tests to work out whether a person has an underlying autoimmune condition.
Doctors treat different kinds of pericarditis with
- anti-inflammatory medication, such as aspirin
- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen
- colchicine, which is a type of medication for treating inflammation and pain
However, research suggests that people with AP often do not experience a good response to colchicine. They also often need additional immunosuppressive medications, which help prevent a person’s immune system from mistakenly attacking their healthy cells and tissues.
A healthcare professional may also recommend additional treatments for any underlying autoimmune conditions.
Research indicates that AP may frequently come back.
Studies cited in a 2017 research paper indicate that
AP may also cause people to have other complications, including cardiac tamponade and constrictive pericarditis, which refers to permanent scarring and thickening of the pericardium that can interfere with how the heart functions.
However, the AHA advises that while pericarditis complications can be serious or fatal,
AP is a condition that involves inflammation of the pericardium due to a person’s immune system mistakenly attacking the structure.
People with AP may experience several symptoms, including sharp or stabbing chest pain that may feel similar to a heart attack. If a person has this type of chest pain, they should immediately call 911.
Doctors may use a range of tests to diagnose the condition, including imaging and blood tests. They may also recommend medications to treat the condition, such as anti-inflammatory medications, corticosteroids, and immunosuppressive medications.
People with AP may have recurring symptoms or complications. However, a doctor will advise how someone can manage any underlying autoimmune conditions to help prevent complications.