Myocarditis is a rare disorder characterised by inflammation of the heart muscle - myocardium. This cardiac ailment, which is often hard to detect due to an absence of any obvious external symptoms, results in the decline of the heart’s ability to pump blood. This, in turn, leads to an abnormal heartbeat/pulse rate, otherwise known as arrhythmias. Also Read: Arrhythmia: Don’t Ignore Irregular Heartbeats, Get Help
In minor instances, myocarditis goes unrecognized in most individuals, with the heart condition gradually healing on its own. However, in serious cases, the heart becomes very weak, unable to drive blood to other vital organs in the body such as the brain, lungs, liver and kidneys. Blood begins to clot in the delicate cardiac muscles, invariably prompting a heart attack or even a stroke. Also Read: World Stroke Day: 5 Myths And Facts About Stroke
It is hence strongly advised to immediately consult a doctor as soon as any irregularities are observed in heartbeat, cardiac function in the person, for it could indicate myocarditis. This will ensure timely treatment and restore the stability and health of the myocardium.
Causes Of Myocarditis
In the majority of cases, myocarditis is prompted by a viral infection, from pathogens that trigger the common cold – adenoviruses, as well as microbes instigating COVID-19 – coronaviruses of the sub-type SARS-CoV-2.
Hepatitis B, C, parvovirus, herpes simplex virus and rubella are other viral strains that could trigger myocarditis.
Not only viruses, but other microbial pathogens such as bacteria, fungi and parasites can also be the cause of myocarditis.
However, at times, unfavourable reactions to certain prescription medications or chronic inflammatory disorders such as Lupus and granulomatosis could also be the reason behind myocarditis.
In the initial stages of the disease or if the illness is very mild, myocarditis does not present with any noticeable symptoms.
At times, minor pain the chest and shortness of breath does occur, but eventually subsides on its own.
Nevertheless, in grave circumstances, myocarditis triggers numerous signs, depending upon the underlying causative factors. Some of the prominent symptoms consist of:
Severe discomfort in the chest
High levels of lethargy, exhaustion and fatigue
Headaches and body pain
Very fast-paced and unsynchronized heartbeats
Accumulation of excess fluid in the legs, ankles and feet
Gasping for breath, particularly while engaging in intense physical exercise
Unlike many common heart illnesses like cardiovascular disease, hypertension and cardiac arrest, myocarditis is not restricted only to adults and the elderly. It also develops in young kids.
The distinct symptoms of myocarditis in children include:
Fever with a sore throat
Facing breathing distress even in normal situations
Anomalies in heartbeat, being too fast or too slow
Stomach problems, indigestion and diarrhoea
If left untreated, myocarditis can lead to grave and irreversible damage to the myocardium, the critical heart muscle essential for performing key functions in the body. This undoubtedly results in stroke, heart attack or cardiac arrest, which could prove to be fatal and therefore require emergency medical treatment.
After conducting a thorough physical exam of the patient, the heart specialist or cardiologist performs a series of tests to look for obvious patterns of myocarditis.
These comprise ECG or electrocardiograms, which display any unusual features in heartbeat, as well as an echocardiogram, to probe for oddities in heart shape, valve structures and pumping activity.
A chest X-ray is taken, to clearly depict any presence of fluid in the vicinity of the heart, which could result in severe cardiac ailments.
In addition, an MRI - magnetic resonance imaging scan, is also carried out, to view the shape, structure and size of the heart and see if there are any alarming levels of inflammation in the tissues. iac MRI will show the heart's size, shape and structure.
Blood samples are collected from the patient and analysed, for the presenc of antibodies synthesized against any invading viruses or other pathogens, which could indicate an underlying infectious illness.
In most instances, myocarditis is rather mild and disappears on its own, without causing any serious damage to the heart muscles.
The precise treatment for myocarditis depends upon the cause. In the case of viral infections, antiviral medications, along with ample rest and hydration to the body will help the patient recover from the illness, which in turn rectifies the myocarditis as well.
In case of obvious damage to heart muscles, along with irregular heartbeats, specific prescription medications are given, to relax the blood vessels and improve cardiac function, to help restore the optimal wellbeing of the patient.