Skip to Content
Home > Wellness > Health Library > Pericarditis
Pericarditis is swelling
and irritation of the
pericardium, which is the sac that surrounds your
Pericarditis usually doesn't cause serious problems. Most people get
better in 7 to 10 days. When there are problems, they may include:
Many things can cause pericarditis, including:
In many cases the cause the is not known.
The main symptom is a
sharp pain in the center or left side of your chest. The pain may spread to the shoulder blade. For some people, this pain is dull
instead of sharp. It may be worse when you lie down or take a deep
The pain lasts for hours or days and doesn't get better
when you rest. It's different from a type of chest pain called
angina, which only lasts a short time and usually gets
better with rest.
Other symptoms may include a mild fever,
weakness, feeling very tired, coughing, hiccups, and muscle aches.
Pericarditis usually isn't dangerous, but your chest pain could be
caused by something more serious, like a
heart attack. And getting diagnosed and treated early
can help keep pericarditis from leading to other problems. That’s why you
should call a doctor right away if you have any kind of sudden chest
Your doctor will
listen to your heart during a physical exam. He or she will also ask questions
about your medical history, such as whether you've had a recent illness,
radiation treatment for cancer, or tuberculosis.
Your doctor may
want you to have some tests, including an
electrocardiogram, a chest X-ray, and blood
If the chest X-ray shows any fluid buildup, or if you have new or worse symptoms, such as shortness of breath, your doctor may want you to have a test
If there are no other problems,
pericarditis usually goes away on its own in a few weeks. During this time:
Be sure to keep all follow-up appointments with your doctor. If you have complications or the illness gets worse, you may need further treatment. This could include medicines or a procedure to relieve the fluid and pressure around your heart (pericardiocentesis).
Learning about pericarditis:
Visit the American Heart Association (AHA) website for information on
physical activity, diet, and various heart-related conditions. You can search for information on heart disease and stroke, share information with friends and family, and use tools to help you make heart-healthy goals and plans. Contact the AHA to find your
nearest local or state AHA group. The AHA provides brochures and information
about support groups and community programs, including Mended Hearts, a
nationwide organization whose members visit people with heart problems and
provide information and support.
CardioSmart is an online program that provides patient education and support from the American College of Cardiology. The goal of CardioSmart is to engage, inform, and empower patients to participate in their own care and partner with their cardiologists. The website contains information about heart problems, living with heart disease, and preventing heart disease. It also provides patient-centered news and can help you find a cardiologist. The website has a Health and Wellness Center with information about diet and exercise, managing medicines, and working with your doctor.
The American College of Cardiology is a nonprofit medical society whose members include many types of health professionals, including doctors, nurses, and surgeons.
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
(NHLBI) information center offers information and publications about preventing
Other Works Consulted
Hoit BD (2008). Pericardial disease. In V Fuster et
al., eds., Hurst's The Heart, 12th ed., pp. 1951–1974.
New York: McGraw-Hill Medical.
LeWinter MM (2008). Pericardial diseases. In P Libby
et al., eds., Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine, 8th ed., pp. 1829–1853. Philadelphia: Saunders
Maisch B, et al. (2004). Guidelines on the diagnosis
and management of pericardial diseases. Executive summary. European Heart Journal, 25(7): 587–610.
Shafi S, Oh JK (2008). Diseases of the pericardium,
cardiac tumors, and cardiac trauma. In DC Dale, DD Federman, eds.,
ACP Medicine, section 1, chapter 13. Hamilton, ON: BC
April 5, 2011
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Stephen Fort, MD, MRCP, FRCPC - Interventional Cardiology
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.
To learn more visit Healthwise.org
© 1995-2013 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
250 Pleasant Street
Concord, NH 03301
Contact Concord Hospital
View Quality Data
© 2013 Concord Hospital