There are three types of inflamed heart. One type affects the inner lining of the heart, another involves the heart muscle, and the third affects the outer sac that surrounds the heart.

Causes vary with the type. They include infections, certain medications, and medical conditions.

The three types of inflamed heart have some symptoms in common, such as chest pain and shortness of breath. Yet each type also has symptoms not present in the other two.

Doctors treat inflamed heart with drugs and medical procedures, such as surgery. If untreated, this condition can lead to serious complications.

Keep reading to learn more about the causes, symptoms, and treatment for inflamed heart.

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Doctors classify inflamed heart according to the part of the organ it affects. Below, we describe the three types.


Endocarditis occurs when there is inflammation of the inner lining of the heart valves and chambers. While it is rare, it is life threatening.

In this condition, clumps of blood cells and fungi or bacteria build up on the inner lining. In addition, pieces of the clumps may break off and end up in other parts of the body, where they can obstruct blood flow. The buildup on the inner lining can cause valve issues, such as leaking.


Myocarditis involves inflammation and other changes in the heart muscle cells. It is not common.

The condition can affect small or large parts of the heart, which can hinder its ability to pump blood. When this happens, it can result in heart failure.


Pericarditis occurs when there is inflammation of the sac that surrounds the heart. This sac comprises fluid encased within two thin layers of tissue.

The sac’s function is to hold the heart in place in the chest and protect it from infection. Pericarditis can disrupt the heart’s function and rhythm.

Causes of an inflamed heart include infections, autoimmune diseases, medications, and environmental factors.


The following are the types of infection that may cause an inflamed heart:

  • Viral infections: These are the most common cause of pericarditis and myocarditis. They can produce an acute response, which is one that is sudden and intense. These infections can also cause a chronic, or ongoing, response.
  • Bacterial infections: Bacterial infections are the most common cause of endocarditis. These happen when blood cells and bacteria form clumps, which build up on the heart valves.
  • Fungal infections: These can cause endocarditis, and they are also rare causes of pericarditis and myocarditis. They occur more often in people with illnesses that suppress immunity, such as HIV.
  • A parasite infection leading to Chagas disease: It is a serious condition in Latin America that can lead to myocarditis as one of its complications. Chagas disease can affect the heart so severely that it results in the need of a pacemaker.

Autoimmune disease

Autoimmune diseases, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, may cause pericarditis or myocarditis. They can cause changes in the heart valves that lead to endocarditis.


Various medications produce side effects that can cause pericarditis, myocarditis, or both. Examples include antibiotics, such as penicillin, and seizure drugs, such as phenytoin.

In rare instances, vaccines may also cause allergic responses that lead to myocarditis.

Immunomodulators, such as those that people take for cancer or rheumatoid arthritis, can lead to myocarditis in rare cases.

Environmental factors

Radiation and exposure to heavy metals, such as lead, may cause myocarditis.

Below are the symptoms of each type of inflamed heart.


Symptoms of endocarditis include:


The Myocarditis Foundation state that many people with the condition have no symptoms, and sometimes their symptoms point to other causes.

Common symptoms include:


According to the American Heart Association (AHA), common symptoms of acute pericarditis include fever and a sudden, stabbing chest pain. Other symptoms of the acute condition are:

The AHA add that ongoing pericarditis often causes:

  • coughing
  • shortness of breath
  • tiredness

People may also experience worsening pain when taking a deep breath or leaning forward.

Signs and symptoms vary greatly among people with heart inflammation. That is why the condition can be hard to diagnose. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) list the following tools doctors rely on to reach a diagnosis:

  • Medical history: It can show whether a person has risk factors for the condition. It can also reveal whether a person had a recent illness that has caused the symptoms.
  • A physical exam: This exam includes listening to the heart and checking the legs for swelling.
  • Procedures: These may include an electrocardiogram, which shows the heart’s electrical activity. It may also involve an echocardiogram, which creates a picture of the size, shape, and functional ability of the heart.
  • Blood tests: These may include tests that identify the exact virus, bacterium, or fungus causing the inflammation.
  • Other tests: Other test types can rule out the presence of another condition that may be causing the symptoms. An example is testing for blood markers of autoimmune disease.

According to the NHLBI, mild cases of pericarditis and myocarditis may resolve without treatment. Below are the medications and procedures doctors use to treat other cases.


The following are medications for endocarditis:

  • Antibiotics: These treat bacterial infections.
  • Antifungal drugs: Doctors use them to treat fungal infections.
  • Blood thinners: These are drugs of choice for some types of endocarditis.

Medications for myocarditis include:

  • Heart failure drugs: These drugs, which include beta-blockers, reduce the work of the heart. Doctors prescribe them when heart failure is a complication.
  • Corticosteroids: These fast-acting drugs make the immune system less active. Doctors may prescribe these when an autoimmune disease, such as lupus, causes myocarditis.
  • Intravenous immunoglobulin: It helps control the body’s inflammatory and immune response.

The following are medications for pericarditis:

  • Anti-inflammatory agents: These can reduce the inflammation that results in pericarditis. Examples include aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen.
  • Corticosteroids: Doctors use these as an alternative when a person cannot take or does not respond well to NSAIDs.
  • Intravenous immunoglobulin: This is an option if an individual has an autoimmune condition, such as lupus.


Doctors may consider these treatment procedures:

  • Pericardiocentesis: With this technique, a doctor removes excess fluid in the pericardium.
  • Surgery: This is a treatment choice for addressing the damage from endocarditis. Surgical procedures may involve removing infected tissue or reconstructing heart tissue.
  • Heart valve reconstruction: As the name suggests, during this procedure, surgeons repair a faulty valve.
  • Heart valve replacement: This open-heart surgery involves replacing a a diseased valve with one that typically consists of synthetic substances or animal tissue.

Strategies to avert endocarditis center on lowering the likelihood of a bacterial infection. The NHLBI recommend the following to prevent endocarditis:

  • Maintain dental health: This involves daily brushing and flossing the teeth, along with regular visits to the dentist. A bacterial infection in the gums and teeth can enter the bloodstream and go to the heart, where it can cause endocarditis.
  • Avoid the use of illegal intravenous drugs: People who engage in this practice have a higher incidence of infections. As with gum infections, the bloodstream can transport them to the heart.
  • Take antibiotics before certain medical procedures: If a person has a risk of endocarditis, a doctor may advise this measure to lower the likelihood of an infection.
  • Keep the skin clean: This involves regular bathing, as well as immediately washing cuts to avoid an infection.
  • Keep blood sugar levels under control if you have diabetes: High sugar levels can lead to an increased risk of infection.

Preventing myocarditis and pericarditis is often hard, if not impossible. However, these measures can reduce the risk of myocarditis:

  • avoiding the use of cocaine and amphetamines
  • controlling risk factors for HIV, such as having sexual intercourse without a condom or other barrier methods

An infection or injury in the body can cause inflammation, a response that promotes the healing process. However, when inflammation occurs in the heart, it can cause damage, which can sometimes lead to serious symptoms.

People with mild damage may not need treatment. On the other hand, individuals with moderate to severe damage can benefit from certain medications or surgical procedures.

Lowering the risk of or avoiding bacterial infections completely is the best way to prevent inflammation of the heart.

Read this article in Spanish.