The inside of your heart contains four chambers and four valves lined by a thin membrane called the endocardium. Endocarditis is an infection of this inner lining.
Endocarditis typically occurs when bacteria or other germs from another part of your body, such as your mouth, spread through your bloodstream and attach to damaged areas in your heart. Left untreated, endocarditis can damage or destroy your heart valves. Endocarditis can be life-threatening.
Endocarditis is rare in people with healthy hearts. People at greatest risk of endocarditis have a damaged heart valve, an artificial heart valve or other heart defects.
Some people at risk of endocarditis need antibiotics before certain medical or dental procedures.
Endocarditis may develop slowly or suddenly — depending on what’s causing the infection and whether you have any underlying heart abnormalities.
Signs and symptoms may include:
* Aching joints and muscles
* Night sweats
* Shortness of breath
* Persistent cough
* Swelling in your feet, legs or abdomen
* Unexplained weight loss
* Blood in your urine
* A new heart murmur
* Tenderness in your spleen — an infection-fighting abdominal organ on your left side, just below your rib cage
Sometimes endocarditis causes red, tender spots under the skin of the fingers. These are known as Osler’s nodes. You may notice tiny purple or red spots known as petechiae (puh-TE-ke-e) on other areas of the skin. Similar spots may appear in the whites of your eyes or under your
note : Endocarditis occurs when germs enter your bloodstream, travel to your heart, and lodge on abnormal heart valves or damaged heart tissue. Abnormal growths (vegetations) that contain collections of bacteria may form in your heart at the site of the infection.
Endocarditis occurs when germs enter your bloodstream, travel to your heart and attach to abnormal heart valves or damaged heart tissue. Bacteria are the cause of most cases, but fungi, viruses or other microorganisms also may be responsible.
Sometimes the culprit is one of many common bacteria that live in your mouth, upper respiratory tract or other parts of your body. In other cases, the offending organism may gain entry to your bloodstream through:
* Certain dental or medical procedures. Dental procedures that cause bleeding may allow bacteria to enter your bloodstream. Bacteria may also be a concern with procedures done elsewhere in the body, such as in the respiratory tract.
* An infection or other medical condition. Bacteria may spread from an infected area, such as a skin sore. Gum disease, a sexually transmitted disease or an intestinal disorder — such as inflammatory bowel disease — also may give bacteria the opportunity to enter your bloodstream.
* Catheters or needles. Bacteria can enter your body through a catheter — a thin tube that doctors sometimes use to inject or remove fluid from the body. Contaminated needles and syringes are a concern for people who use intravenous (IV) drugs.
* Common activities. Even everyday activities such as brushing your teeth or chewing food can allow bacteria to enter your bloodstream — especially if your teeth and gums are in poor condition.
Typically, your immune system destroys bacteria that make it into your bloodstream. Even if bacteria reach your heart, they may pass through without causing an infection.
Most people who develop endocarditis have a diseased or damaged heart valve — an ideal spot for bacteria to settle. This damaged tissue in the endocardium provides bacteria with the roughened surface they need to attach and multiply.
note : Your heart is composed of two upper chambers and two lower chambers. The upper chambers — the right atrium and the left atrium — receive incoming blood. The lower chambers — the more muscular right and left ventricles — pump blood out of your heart. The heart valves keep blood flowing in the right direction and serve as gates to the chamber openings. The chambers and valves are lined by a thin membrane called the endocardium.
If your heart is healthy, you’re unlikely to develop endocarditis. Even most types of heart disease don’t increase the risk of endocarditis. The organisms that cause infection tend to adhere to and multiply only in malformed, damaged or surgically implanted heart valves.
Those at risk of endocarditis are those who have:
* Damaged or artificial heart valves. Certain medical conditions — such as rheumatic fever or infection — can damage or scar one or more of your heart valves, making them more prone to endocarditis.
* Congenital heart defects. If you were born with certain types of heart defects, your heart may be more susceptible to infection.
* A history of endocarditis. An episode of endocarditis damages heart tissue and valves, increasing the risk of a future heart infection.
If you have a known heart defect or heart valve problem, ask your doctor about your risk of developing endocarditis. Even if your heart condition has been repaired or hasn’t caused symptoms, you may still be at risk.
Some people without heart problems are at risk of endocarditis as well. Intravenous drug users have a greater risk of infection because sharing or reusing needles can expose the bloodstream to infectious agents. People who are hospitalized with IV tubes also may be exposed to infection.
for more info : http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/endocarditis/DS00409