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: heather1012, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: October 15

A few years back I started getting run down and very tired. It was not abnormal as both my boys were in hockey and in school so I was running around a lot with them plus I worked a full time job. However, I noticed when I went to bed at night the pressure on my chest was unbelievable. After a week, I had to sleep sitting up. I went to the doctor and he said I must have strained a muscle and prescribed me muscle relaxants. It didn't help and the next week I went back. This time they told me it was an anxiety attack and that I should slow down. Well, by this point I had, because I could barely breathe. The third time I went, my husband had to take me to emergency and again they said it was a pulled muscle but my husband insisted on tests. So they started an EKG (electrocardiography) which was excruciating because I had to lie down. Luckily, a friend of ours who just happens to be the cardiologist was walking by and asked what was wrong. I told him and he checked me out right then and there. He knew right away that it was a viral pericarditis and discussed the matter with all the previous doctors I had seen. I was prescribed prednisone which took 8 weeks to minimize the symptoms. I still get a "sore heart" every once in a while but it only lasts a day or so and doesn't require medications.

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Comment from: Cardi, 45-54 Male (Patient) Published: April 22

I had the flu, took regular multivitamins, and after a few days I was ok; or so I thought. I started coughing, this continued for days then I started feeling pain in my chest more to the left side. Anything that caused the lung to be inflated including deep breath, sneeze, or yawn, I just have to cut it short as it feels like the lung is touching the heart. I saw a doctor, got anti-inflammatory medications but still feel the pain. I was sent to do blood tests including HIV as I started night sweats and fever. Then the echocardiogram showed pericarditis, the damage to the lining of the heart and lung. Hey, be careful, flu can kill.

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