Symptoms of pericarditis
- Sharp chest pain that can change with changes in the body's position and frequently may be relieved by leaning forward slightly; this chest pain may feel like a heart attack
- Occasionally, shortness of breath
- In some cases of pericarditis, individuals may not experience physical symptoms.
Pericarditis can occur in conditions other than lupus, therefore the cause must be determined before treatment begins. To help diagnose pericarditis, these tests may be ordered:
- blood tests
- chest x-rays
- electrocardiogram (EKG)
- echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart) can tell if there is fluid around the heart
- Lupus pericarditis can be treated with anti-inflammatory drugs.
- If anti-inflammatory drug therapy is unsuccessful, a brief course of corticosteroid treatment is usually needed.
- If pericarditis is due to infection or kidney failure, the treatment is different than if it is due to lupus.
When lupus causes inflammation of the tissue of the heart, myocarditis occurs. However, serious heart muscle disease is not common in SLE.
Symptoms of myocarditis
- unexplained rapid heart beat
- irregular heart beat
- abnormal electrocardiogram
- heart failure.
Myocarditis is often seen with inflammation of other muscles in the body, and this condition can lead to tissue damage that replaces heart tissue with scar tissue.
Treatment usually includes corticosteroids such as prednisone. Immunosuppressive drugs such as Cytoxan (cyclophosphamide) and Imuran (azathioprine) may be added if the inflammation is not completely controlled with corticosteroids.
When lupus causes inflammation of the lining of the inside of the heart, endocarditis occurs.
Symptoms of endocarditis
- Although the heart valves can be damaged, this condition rarely affects the pumping efficiency of the heart.
- The surface of the valves can thicken or develop wart-like growths called Libman-Sacks lesions.
- Although these growths may cause heart murmurs, it is uncommon for them to seriously affect the function of the valves.
- However, if bacteria lodge in the growths, infection can occur. This condition is called bacterial endocarditis and can cause scarring of the affected tissue.
- Although also uncommon, bacterial endocarditis is potentially very serious and requires hospitalization.
- The inflammation and scarring of valves rarely leads to a deformity requiring valve replacement.