Endocarditis or heart valve infection is an infection of the heart’s interior lining and is commonly caused by bacteria. When heart valve infection is triggered by an infection it is termed as infective endocarditis. Endocarditis is not common in people having a healthy heart.
Endocarditis generally happens when fungi, bacteria, or other germs reach damaged parts of the heart from another part of your body.
What Is Heart Valve Infection?
As said above it is also called infective endocarditis (IE) or even bacterial endocarditis. When bacteria enter the bloodstream and settle in a blood vessel or heart valve it leads to this condition. People having heart problems are more at risk of developing this condition.
Infective endocarditis or heart valve infection depicts infection of the heart’s lining. It also affects the muscles and valves of the heart.
Infective endocarditis is of two types.
- Acute IE– Develops all of a sudden and could develop as a life-threatening condition in days.
- Subacute or chronic IE (or subacute bacterial endocarditis)- Develops gradually over weeks to many months.
Causes Of Heart Valve Infection
The causes are many but the main cause is the entry of bacteria into the bloodstream. The other causes can be from varied sources that include;
- Poor dental hygiene leads to the infection of gums or mouth
- Dental implants & surgeries
- Implanted cardiovascular devices
- Chronic skin infections and disorders
- Skin burns
- Infectious diseases and more.
Symptoms Of Heart Valve Infection
Common signs and symptoms include;
- Flu-like signs like chills and fevers
- Changes in heart function especially a changed sound
- Aching muscles and joints
- Breathing shortness
- Night sweats
- Pain in the chest
- Swelling in abdomen, feet, and legs
Uncommon symptoms include
- Unknown weight loss
- Blood in urine
- Spleen tenderness
- Osler’s nodes
- Janeway lesions
Heart Valve Infection With Sepsis
This condition develops when bacteria is introduced into the bloodstream due to sepsis. Sepsis is a condition where a person suffers from a severe blood infection.
Heart Valve Infection Diagnosis
A doctor first examines your medical history and symptoms before suggesting tests. Following this, review tests may also be done.
1. Blood Test
A blood culture test may be referred to verify if fungi, bacteria, or other microorganisms are leading to it. Apart from this other blood tests may also be done to know if the situation is caused by other conditions like anemia.
2. Transthoracic Echocardiogram
It is a non-radiating imaging test and is done to view and know the condition of the heart and its valves.
3. Transesophageal Echocardiogram
If the above test doesn’t provide sufficient information then an echocardiogram test is prescribed which is also a non-radiating imaging test. This test allows the viewing of the heart through the esophagus.
This may be asked to have a superior view of the heart’s electrical activity. It detects an unequal heart rate or rhythm.
5. Chest X-ray
Chest X-ray test is used to know if lung problems like collapsed lungs and others are the root cause.
Treatment For Heart Valve Infection
If the condition is the effect of bacteria it will be cured using intravenous antibiotic therapy. The physician will prescribe antibiotics which should be taken regularly until the infection and inflammation are subdued.
You may also be hospitalized for a few weeks till the condition reaches normalcy to avoid further complications. Oral antibiotic treatment will also be part of later-stage treatments.
Prolonged heart valve infection may ask for surgery to reach normalcy. Surgery is performed to remove any scar tissue, dead tissue, debris, or fluid buildup from infected tissue.
This may even be done to remove or repair the damaged heart valve and restore it with either animal tissue or man-made material.
Complications Of Heart Valve Infection
Complications could develop due to the damage set by the infection. Complications can be abnormal heart rhythms, like blood clots, atrial fibrillation, hyperbilirubinemia with jaundice, and other organ injuries.
The other complications include emboli, inflammation of kidneys, lung infections, and brain damage.
The other fatal complications include heart failure and stroke.
Heart valve infection can be prevented by following oral hygiene, going for regular heart check-ups, avoiding body piercings like tattoos, and so on.