The pericardium is a thin, membrane surrounding your heart. Pericarditis is the swelling and inflammation of this sac. In most cases pericarditis is mild. It clears up on its own with simple treatment and rest. Some patients need further treatment to prevent complications. Viral infections are a common cause of pericarditis. Other causes are certain health disorders, traumas, medications or systemic inflammatory disorders. Early diagnosis and treatment can help to prevent long-term complications. As many other conditions may cause similar symptoms, blood tests, a chest x-ray, an electrocardiogram (ECG) or an echocardiogram can help to diagnosis.
The most common symptom of pericarditis is a stabbing pain in the chest. The sac consists of two layers. Sometimes the space between the layers fills with fluid from inflammation. It results in friction with the heart. You usually feel the pain in the center or the left side of the chest or behind your breastbone. If you have sudden chest pains, you need to get medical advice. Most cases of pericarditis are not serious, but it’s important to rule out other conditions. If it is pericarditis, the pain responds well to treatment with anti-inflammatory painkillers.
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