Infective endocarditis is an infection brought about by the bacteria that enters the bloodstream and settles in the lining of the heart, blood vessel or heart valve. The condition is considered uncommon but individuals with some heart conditions face a higher risk for developing it.
What are the forms?
- Acute – develops abruptly and can become life-threatening in just a few days
- Subacute or chronic – develops in a slow manner over a span of weeks up to several months
The infection is brought about by bacteria introduced into the bloodstream, usually via a normal cavity such as brushing teeth which causes minor injuries to the lining of the mouth or gums. The bacteria might lodge on the heart valves and trigger an infection of the endocardium.
Why is endocarditis a threat to the heart valves?
The heart valves are not being supplied directly by blood. Due to this, the immune system particularly the white blood cells could not directly reach the valves via the bloodstream.
If bacteria start to grow on the valves, it is hard to fight the infection whether with the immune system or with medications that depend on the blood system for delivery.
Who are at risk?
The risk factors for children and young adults generally include birth defects involving the heart such as misshapen valves or a cavity in the septum that allows the leakage of blood from one part to another.
As for adults, the risk factors include previous valve transplants or surgeries, congenital heart defects, history of endocarditis or calcium deposits in the mitral valve or aortic valve.
What are the indications?
The indications of an acute case of infective endocarditis generally includes:
- Fever at 102-104 degrees C
- Rapid heart rate
- Aching muscles and joints
- Night sweats
- Continuous cough
- Swollen abdomen, feet or legs
When it comes to a chronic case of infective endocarditis, it might include symptoms such as mild fever, fatigue, moderately rapid heart rate, sweating, weight loss, reduced red blood cell count which can arise over a period of months.
The treatment typically involves at least 2 weeks up to 6 weeks of high doses of intravenous antibiotics.
Prevention of those who are at high risk typically includes awareness of the potential risk as well as preventive antibiotics before undergoing certain surgical, medical and dental procedures.