Symptoms of Pericarditis


Pericarditis rarely develops as an independent disease, most often it occurs in the setting of other diseases (as their complication). Therefore, it is quite a common situation when this condition has no specific clinical signs. However, pericarditis may have heart and general symptoms, the severity and degree of these symptoms depend on the form and stage of the disease.

Heart symptoms include:

pericarditis symptom: heart or chest pain

  • Pain in the heart. It is the main heart symptom experienced in about 90% of the cases. Such pain is usually localized behind the breastbone or in the left side of the chest and spreads to the left hand. The intensity of pain varies from almost imperceptible to extremely sharp. It changes depending on the position of the body – pain decreases when a person lies on his right side with his legs pulled to his chest or when leaning forward. It happens because in this position the inflamed pericardial walls have less contact with each other when the heart contracts. Pain is usually long-lasting and agonizing, but as opposed to angina pains, it grows slowly and may last from several hours up to several days. Nitroglycerin (taken for angina pain) does not help for this pain, it fades away only when taking strong (narcotic) analgesics. Such pain increases when coughing, breathing deeply or lying on the back. Some forms of pericarditis may cause no pain at all.
  • Circulatory failure. It is another common symptom of pericarditis characterized by dyspnea with exertion and at rest, edema (swelling), etc.

General symptoms include:

  • Weakness;
  • Sweating;
  • Fatigability;
  • Lack or loss of appetite;
  • Increased body temperature (up to 38 °С) and other symptoms.

If pericarditis progresses as a complication of another disease, then the symptoms of the involvement of other organs and systems may become evident.


Next chapter: Tests and diagnosis of pericarditis

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