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Your heart is a four-chambered, muscular pump about the size of your fist. It beats 60 to 100 times per minute, pumping blood through your entire your body.

Myocarditis is a disease that causes the heart muscle to become inflamed. This inflammation weakens the heart and creates scar tissue that makes it work harder. Most often, myocarditis affects otherwise fit, young people between puberty and the early 30’s. It affects males twice as often as females.

What happens once you have myocarditis?

One of the greatest challenges in diagnosing myocarditis is that it doesn't have specific symptoms. Sometimes, people with the disease have no symptoms. When they do, symptoms may show a viral infection or other cardiac problems such as a heart attack. Common symptoms can include but are not limited to:

  • Fatigue.

  • Lightheadedness.

  • Heart palpitations.

  • Chest pain or pressure.

  • A sudden loss of consciousness.

  • Swelling in the hands, legs, ankles, and feet.

  • Shortness of breath, especially after exercise or when lying down.

If you feel any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor right away.

What causes myocarditis?

Myocarditis is usually caused by viral infections. The virus causes inflammation and puts stress on the heart. This stress can last even after the infection is treated and disappears. Contagious diseases and environmental toxins can also cause myocarditis.

Myocarditis is most likely to be cured when it's diagnosed early. Currently, there are no known lifestyle choices that you can make or medical treatments that you can take to prevent myocarditis.

What types of tests are used to diagnosis myocarditis?

Common tests for myocarditis include:

  • Electrocardiogram: This test uses sound waves to detect the electrical activity in your heart.

  • Chest X-Ray: A chest X-ray produces an image on film that outlines your heart, lungs, and other structures in your chest.

  • Echocardiogram: This test uses sound waves to produce images of the heart and its structures.

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan: An MRI creates images using a magnetic field and radio waves.

  • Heart biopsy: This samples the tissue of your heart. It may be required to confirm the diagnosis.

What types of treatments and procedures are used to treat myocarditis?

Fortunately, myocarditis is rare, but this means information is also limited. We do know that it is probably not passed down from your family.

Some patients with severe myocarditis develop low blood pressure. These patients may need a temporary heart pump device to survive the acute injury. The pump can usually be removed when blood pressure improves.

Patients with severe myocarditis should see a cardiologist (heart doctor) who treats heart failure and irregular heartbeats (arrhythmia).

Lifestyle changes you can make to improve your heart health include:

  • Reduce salt in your diet.
  • Maintain a healthy body weight.
  • Never smoke, or stop smoking.
  • Drink only moderate amounts of alcohol, if any. This means an average of one to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.
  • Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet, rich in fresh fruit and vegetables but low in saturated fats, processed sugar, and salt.
  • If you have diabetes, work closely with your doctor to make sure it is controlled.
  • Get at least 150 minutes of moderate to intense physical exercise every week.

What can I do to support my health when I have myocarditis?

After treatment, many patients recover fully from myocarditis. Some people will need care for a while. That may be medication or even a heart transplant. Myocarditis can cause dilated cardiomyopathy, which accounts for 45 percent of heart transplants in the U.S.

Participating in sports when you have acute viral myocarditis may cause sudden death. You should avoid strenuous activity for at least three to six months after diagnosis.

Why choose Presbyterian for myocarditis treatment?

Presbyterian Heart and Vascular Care has a skilled vascular care team who can provide a wide range of services from diagnosis to treatment. Their surgeons are trained in many different techniques and procedures, many of which can provide you with a shorter recovery period and less hospital time.