Bacteria and fungal Endocarditis is an infection of the inner lining of the heart (endocardium). The endocardium becomes inflamed and can cause valve damage. Endocarditis is a very serious infection and needs to be treated immediately as they can cause heart failure and/or strokes.
There are two types of Endocarditis; bacterial and fungal. Bacterial is the most common form of Endocarditis but both have similar symptoms and treatments.
You may be more at risk of Endocarditis if you have valve replacement, heart valve disease, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (where the heart muscles has become enlarged, which may causes damage to the heart valve). According to research men have increased risk of developing Endocarditis in comparison with women.
If you have mitral regurgitation, you may not experience any symptoms at first.
But the condition can eventually become more severe and cause:
- chest pain brought on by physical activity – caused by your heart having to work harder
- shortness of breath – at first you may only notice this when you exercise, but later you may experience this even when resting
- dizziness or lightheadedness – caused by the obstruction of blood flow from your heart
- Loss of consciousness (fainting) – also a result of reduced blood flow
- Fatigue - Difficulty walking short distances
- Swollen ankles or feet - caused by poor circulation and often experienced after sleeping or inactivity
- Difficulty sleeping or needing to sleep sitting up
- Decline in activity level or reduced ability to do normal activities
- Feeling older than your age
One way of preventing Endocarditis can be to have good oral hygiene. This means not letting abscesses and gum disease go untreated, to use antibacterial soap to decrease skin infection, to wash grazes and cuts, to avoid cosmetic procedures, piercings and tattoos.
When at the Dentist mention your medical history with heart valve disease before any procedures. Sometimes brushing and chewing food can be a cause of Endocarditis. Poor dental hygiene or invasive dental work, gum infections should be discussed with your dentist and GP. Also use of other medical instruments (e.g. syringes, urinary catheters, dialysis, laparoscopes) should be administered with caution if you have heart valve disease.
If you do contract Endocarditis you need to be admitted to the hospital immediately and given antibiotics via a drip. Also a possible valve replacement and draining of an abscesses needs to be considered by your clinician. After being discharged from the hospital, which depends on the severity of the condition, you'll be given a prescription of antibiotics to take home. This needs to be followed up with regular check ups with your GP, possible anti-fungal medicine and further blood samples.
When David Eaton’s life and career were suddenly placed in jeopardy by a mystery illness and painful headaches, he never thought that his heart might be the cause. Unknown to him, his aortic valve had been under stealthy attack from bacteria, caused by a condition called endocarditis. An injury sustained thirty years ago to his lower jaw was most probably to blame and as a result of the infection David underwent an aortic valve replacement.
Click here to read his story