Endocarditis is condition affecting the heart lining, heart valves, or blood vessels. Endocarditis can be caused by bacterial or fungal infection (infective endocarditis) or by blood clots that form on the heart valves or lining (non-infective endocarditis or non-bacterial thrombotic endocarditis (NBTE)). In cases of infective endocarditis, the infected area becomes inflamed and immune cells can be seen in the affected area. In cases of non-infective endocarditis, there is no inflammation of the heart lining or valves.
The young and the old are at increased risk of experiencing endocarditis. Those with cancer, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, or a weakened immune system are also at an increased risk. Those with certain blood clotting conditions are at increased risk for NBTE. Symptoms of infective endocarditis can include fever, chills, fatigue, and achiness. Symptoms of both infective and non-infective endocarditis can include coughing, shortness of breath, weight loss, muscle and joint pain, a heart murmur, and small spots of blood under the skin or fingernails. It is important to seek treatment if you experience these symptoms. If untreated, endocarditis can be fatal.
Endocarditis can often be diagnosed using a physical examination, an ultrasound of the heart (echocardiogram), testing of heart rhythm with an EKG, blood cultures to test for bacteria, and an X-ray of the chest. Treatment for infective endocarditis includes antibiotics. Treatment for NBTE usually includes anticoagulants to decrease the likelihood of blood clots and to help break up any existing clots. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with endocarditis, talk to your doctor about the most current treatment options.