Navigate Up

Cancer Center - A-Z Index

#
Q
Y

Print This Page

Myocarditis

Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart muscle.

See also: Pediatric myocarditis

Alternative Names

Inflammation - heart muscle

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Myocarditis is an uncommon disorder that is usually caused by viral, bacterial, or fungal infections that reach the heart.

Viral infections:

Bacterial infections:

  • Mycoplasma
  • Streptococcus
  • Treponema

Fungal infections:

  • Aspergillus
  • Candida
  • Coccidioides
  • Cryptococcus
  • Histoplasma

When you have an infection, your immune system produces special cells that release chemicals to fight off disease. If the infection affects your heart, the disease-fighting cells enter the heart. However, the chemicals produced by an immune response can damage the heart muscle. As a result, the heart can become thick, swollen, and weak. This leads to symptoms of heart failure .

Other causes of myocarditis may include:

  • Allergic reactions to certain medications or toxins (alcohol, cocaine, certain chemotherapy drugs, heavy metals, and catecholamines)
  • Being around certain chemicals
  • Certain diseases that cause inflammation throughout the body (rheumatoid arthritis , sarcoidosis )

Symptoms

Click to download

There may be no symptoms. Symptoms may be similar to the flu. If symptoms occur, they may include:

  • Abnormal heartbeat
  • Chest pain that may resemble a heart attack
  • Fatigue
  • Fever and other signs of infection including headache, muscle aches, sore throat, diarrhea, or rashes
  • Joint pain or swelling
  • Leg swelling
  • Shortness of breath

Other symptoms that may occur with this disease:

Signs and tests

A physical examination may show no abnormalities, or may reveal the following:

  • Abnormal heartbeat or heart sounds (murmurs, extra heart sounds)
  • Fever
  • Fluid in the lungs
  • Rapid heartbeat (tachycardia)
  • Swelling (edema) in the legs

Tests used to diagnosis myocarditis include:

Treatment

Treatment is aimed at the cause of the problem, and may involve:

  • Antibiotics
  • Anti-inflammatory medicines to reduce swelling
  • Diuretics to remove excess water from the body
  • Low-salt diet
  • Reduced activity

If the heart muscle is very weak, your health care provider will prescribe medicines to treat heart failure. Abnormal heart rhythms may require the use of additional medications, a pacemaker, or an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator. If a blood clot is in the heart chamber, you will also receive blood thinning medicine.

Expectations (prognosis)

How well you do depends on the cause of the problem and your overall health. The outlook varies. Some people may recover completely. Others may have permanent heart failure.

Calling your health care provider

Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of myocarditis, especially after a recent infection.

Seek immediate medical help if you have severe symptoms or have been diagnosed with myocarditis and have increased:

Prevention

Promptly treating conditions that cause myocarditis may reduce the risk.

References

Liu P, Baughman KL. Myocarditis. In: Bonow RO, Mann DL, Zipes DP, Libby P, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 70.

McKenna W. Diseases of the myocardium and endocardium. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 60.

Updated: 6/7/2012

Glenn Gandelman, MD, MPH, FACC Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine at New York Medical College, and in private practice specializing in cardiovascular disease in Greenwich, CT. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.


©  UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

© UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com