Constrictive pericarditis is a long-lasting or chronic inflammation of the pericardium. The pericardium is a sac-like membrane that covers the heart. Once inflammation arises, it results to scarring, thickening and tightening of the muscle. After some time, the pericardium loses its suppleness and turns rigid.
Remember that it can become a serious issue. If not treated, a stiff pericardium can trigger symptoms of heart failure and can even become life-threatening.
What are the indications?
The general indications of constrictive pericarditis include:
- Difficulty breathing that slowly develops and becomes worse
- Swollen abdomen
- Low-grade fever
- Chronic, significant swelling in the ankles and legs
- Chest pain in some cases
What are the causes?
Once the covering of the heart is inflamed for long-periods of time, it turns stiff. As an outcome, the heart could not stretch normally as it beats. This prevents the heart chambers from being filled with adequate quantity of blood which leads to the manifestation of the indications of heart failure.
The precise cause of constrictive pericarditis is not always determined. Nevertheless, the possible causes might include:
- Heart surgery
- Radiation therapy to the chest area
Some of the uncommon causes include bacterial or viral infection and mesothelioma. In some instances, the doctor might not be able to determine the cause of the inflammation. There are various treatment options available even if the cause is not determined.
The treatment for constrictive pericarditis is aimed on improving the overall function of the heart.
During the early phases of pericarditis, the following are usually recommended:
- Water pills or diuretics to get rid of excess fluids
- Pain medications or analgesics to ease the pain
- Reduce the activity level
- Lowering the intake of salt in the diet
- Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs
If it is precisely determined that the individual has constrictive pericarditis and the symptoms become severe, the doctor might recommend pericardiectomy. During the procedure, areas that are scarred around the heart are taken out. This is considered as a complex surgical procedure that has some risks but it is often the best option.