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: Gaynor, 65-74 Female (Patient) Published: November 12

I first noticed crackling in the back of my throat when I was resting and shallow breathing which had been going on for about six weeks and a dry irritating cough. And one morning when I got out of my bed to go to the bathroom I suddenly got this heavy sharp feeling in my chest and throat and in my back. I thought I was having the beginnings of a heart attack, I felt like I had a cannonball in my chest and throat. I went to see my doctor that morning and he gave me an ECG which he thought looked normal and told me that I had reflux which I thought was very strange. Three weeks later I still felt unwell and was finding it hard to hold a conversation when I was walking because I was feeling short of breath and going upstairs was making me feel also short of breath, and I was also feeling very anxious about how I felt and found I had lost my appetite and suffered from nausea quite badly, and my stomach also did a lot of grumbling. I eventually made a private appointment to go and see a specialist where he very quickly diagnosed pericarditis. I have been taken colchicine 500 mcg for the last 6 weeks and Naproxen 500 mcg for the last three weeks to try and speed things up. The pain in my chest is no longer there but the pain in my back between my shoulder blades is still there, always at its worst in the mornings. I look forward to feeling myself again soon but it is taken longer than I was led to believe.

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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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