Pericarditis - Describe Your Experience

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What is pericarditis?

The heart muscle has a tight covering that surrounds it, a lining sac called the pericardium (peri=around +cardium=heart). This sac actually has two layers. The visceral pericardium is only one cell layer thick and fits tightly onto the heart muscle. The parietal pericardium is much tougher and thicker and has fibers that tether the heart to the rib cage and diaphragm. There is a potential space between the layers, meaning that in normal situations, it has a minimal amount of fluid. However, should inflammation occur, it can fill with fluid. Inflammation of the lining of the heart is called pericarditis (itis=inflammation).

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See what others are saying

Comment from: Busy Mom, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: November 18

My first episode was in 2006 or 2007 when I felt some pain deep inside when I tried to get a good breath. The pain moved into my arms, chest and back, increasing over three days. It peaked on day 4 then slowly diminished over the next 3 days. That pattern became a typical flare up. I thought it was a pulled muscle to begin with. Several months later it happened again and this time I went to the doctor thinking I was possibly having a heart attack. My EKG and x-rays looked okay so I just took ibuprofen to get through the pain. This happened every 3 to 5 months for the next few years, I was misdiagnosed with costochondritis. I also had my gallbladder checked as the pain was bad in my shoulder. I ended up in the emergency room twice with severe pain and unable to get a breath. It hurt the most lying down. The episodes got closer and closer until 2010 when the pain wouldn't stop. I was put on prednisone full time and that helped. I was finally diagnosed with idiopathic pericarditis and am currently under a cardiologist's care, trying to get off prednisone. Every time I go below 4 mg, I get a flare up and have to increase again. Sometimes I get a flare up even when I'm on 4mg of prednisone. Colchicine worked well but it raised my liver enzymes so I had to quit. I also take 400mg ibuprofen a day. In addition to medications I have tried various alternative supplements and going gluten free, which didn't help at all. I worked with a rheumatologist for 8 months thinking it was an auto-immune disorder that may have caused this. But those medicines didn't make any difference. My cardiologist thinks it will go away with time.

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Comment from: Wibbler, 35-44 Male (Patient) Published: March 19

I was diagnosed with pericarditis over Christmas. Three episodes of severe chest pains about two weeks apart put me in hospital overnight each time. I had a few weeks of no symptoms but now I have a constant back pain (between the shoulder blades) and a grumbling stomach. The severe pain has not returned. I do get woken up in the night but nothing that I cannot deal with. Episodes seems to last up to three hours then subside. Top tip - a hot water bottle against the chest works wonders for pain relief.

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