Heart and Circulatory System

What causes pericarditis?

A Answers (3)

  • When this membrane becomes inflamed, the condition is known as pericarditis. It occurs in two forms: acute (sudden and short-lived) and chronic (persistent over long periods).

    Acute pericarditis may result from a number of underlying disorders, including:

    • Viral infection
    • Bacterial infection
    • Fungal infection
    • Heart attack
    • Rheumatic fever
    • Rheumatoid arthritis
    • Hypothyroidism
    • Metastatic cancer
    • Kidney failure
    • Chest injury
    • Open heart surgery

    Chronic pericarditis may develop from recurrent acute cases or may result from a chronic infection such as tuberculosis.

    In some cases the cause of pericarditis is unknown.

  • The cause of about half of all pericarditis cases (both acute and chronic) is unknown.

    Viral infections are likely the most common cause of acute pericarditis, but the virus may never be found. Pericarditis often occurs after a respiratory infection. Bacterial, fungal, and other infections also can cause pericarditis.

    Less often, pericarditis is caused by:

    • Autoimmune disorders, such as lupus, scleroderma, and rheumatoid arthritis
    • Heart attack and heart surgery
    • Kidney failure, HIV/AIDS, cancer, tuberculosis, and other health problems
    • Injury from accidents or radiation therapy
    • Certain medicines, like phenytoin (an antiseizure medicine), warfarin and heparin (blood-thinning medicines), and procainamide (a medicine to treat abnormal heartbeats)

    The causes of acute and chronic pericarditis are the same.

    This answer from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute has been reviewed and/or edited by Dr. William D. Knopf.

  • Most pericarditis in this country is caused by a viral infection. The disease also may be caused by bacteria, fungi, or parasites. In the past and among people from certain parts of the world, Tuberculosis is a common cause of pericarditis. There is also a noninfectious pericarditis; causes include disease of the underlying heart muscle, injury, and other diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus erythematosus, or kidney failure. Cancer radiation therapy to the chest also can cause pericarditis.
This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.
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