Pericarditis - Symptoms and Signs

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What are the symptoms of pericarditis?

Chest pain is the most common symptom of pericarditis.

  • Classically, the pain is begins in the center of the chest and radiates to the neck or upper back.
  • The pain is sharp and stabbing, but may also be felt as a dull, ache or burning pain.
  • The intensity may be mild or very severe and it can come on gradually or suddenly.
  • The pain makes it hurt to take a breath.
  • Most individuals feel worse when lying flat.

Other symptoms may include fevers and chills, sweats, shortness of breath, and difficulty swallowing.

When pericarditis is due to infection, the symptoms tend to arise quickly while inflammation due to chronic diseases is more gradual in onset.

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See what others are saying

Comment from: bob, 55-64 Male (Patient) Published: February 10

I had severe pain in center of chest moving into my shoulders. The pain stayed static, and I had put it down to indigestion as I suffer from that. I also suffer from COPD and arthritis, and my wife made me go to the hospital where eventually a prescription of ibuprofen and paracetamol gradually eased the pain. I had a slight recurrence a few days later but nothing since. The doctor believes it was pericarditis, and I am now going to be attending the cardio unit for further tests.

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Comment from: Lyn, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: June 28

I am 56 years old and work full time. On Tuesday, 6/21/16 I'd been at work about an hour. I move around quite a bit in a large 1 story building where part of the air conditioning has not been working properly. Rather suddenly, I became very winded, arms felt like lead, had a dry persistent cough, and there was a definite heaviness in the center of my breast-bone. I moved very slowly, no choice, due to shallow breathing, having to sit frequently. I couldn't speak more than 4 words without taking a few breaths, and I seemed to stumbling over my words and finding my thought process to be slightly impaired. I had been extremely fatigued for about 6 weeks prior. I was trying to hold off seeking medical attention until 8:00 when a nearby Med-Pointe was to open. But a half-hour of this worsening convinced me I needed to go to the emergency room (ER). It took me forever it seemed, to walk from my car into the ER department. I was wheeled immediately into a room and hooked up to a machine monitoring my heart. I have a history of bronchitis and pneumonia and I honestly thought that what was wrong, they'd give me a treatment, order a prescription and I'd be on my way. Wrong! Eleven hours and multiple tests/x-rays later, I was given the diagnosis of pericarditis. Thankfully not enough excess fluid to warrant admittance or a procedure. I was told that within a week my symptoms and the excess fluid should be gone and was sent on my way. No restrictions, and no medicines. Well, I'm getting scared. I had to leave work later this week due to the symptoms returning, and even though I've kept myself inside, today I have been miserable, with the shortness of breath and heaviness in the chest. Being cool, and trying to keep stress at a minimum seems to help the symptoms. I'm so very glad I listened to my body and the 'something's not right' feeling.

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