Endocarditis is an infection
of the heart's valves or inner lining. It occurs when germs get into the bloodstream
and settle inside the heart, often on a valve. The infection is usually caused by bacteria.
In rare cases, it is caused by fungi.
This infection can damage your
heart. It needs to be treated right away. If it isn't treated, endocarditis can be
What increases your risk of endocarditis?
risk is higher if you have a problem that affects blood flow through your heart. That's because
a blood flow problem makes it more likely that bacteria or fungi will attach to heart
tissue. Some other things raise your risk too, because they can let bacteria or fungi
enter your bloodstream.
You have a higher risk of endocarditis if you have:
Infections in other organs, such as the lungs, brain, or kidneys.
How is endocarditis diagnosed?
First, your doctor
will ask about your medical history and your symptoms. The doctor will also do a physical
exam to check for signs of the infection. These signs include a heart murmur, an enlarged spleen, and bleeding
under the nails.
Endocarditis is usually treated with antibiotics. You will probably need several
weeks of treatment. The antibiotics must be given long enough and at a strong enough
dose to destroy all of the bacteria.
At first you will be treated in the hospital.
This is so that antibiotics can be given through a vein (IV). After your fever is gone
and you are stable, you may be able to continue IV antibiotics at home. A home health
nurse can help you with this.
After you have been treated with IV antibiotics,
your doctor may want you to take antibiotic pills. If so, take them exactly as prescribed
until they are gone. If your symptoms come back, call your doctor right away. You
probably will need more antibiotics if testing shows that the bacteria were not completely
Some people who have endocarditis need surgery to repair or replace
a heart valve or to prevent complications.
You may have follow-up visits for
months or years to check the health of your heart.
What can you do if you are at risk for endocarditis?
Endocarditis is most
dangerous for people who have:
you have any of these heart problems, you may need to take antibiotics before you
have some kinds of dental work, surgery, or medical procedures. The antibiotics lower
your risk of getting endocarditis. Your doctor can give you a wallet card to carry
that says you need preventive antibiotics.
It's also very important to take
good care of your teeth and gums every day. Good oral care can limit the growth of
mouth bacteria that could get into your bloodstream. Practice good oral hygiene by
brushing and flossing your teeth daily. See a dentist twice each year.
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ByHealthwise Staff Primary
Medical ReviewerRakesh K. Pai, MD - Cardiology, Electrophysiology E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine Martin
J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine Adam Husney, MD
- Family Medicine Elizabeth T. Russo, MD - Internal
Medicine Specialist Medical ReviewerRobert A. Kloner, MD, PhD - Cardiology
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