What causes pericarditis?

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.
Piedmont Heart Institute

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.

Continue Learning about Heart and Circulatory System

Heart and Circulatory System

Heart and Circulatory System

Your circulatory system is made up of your heart and three main types of blood vessels -- arteries, veins and capillaries. Your heart is at the center of the system, acting as a pump to distribute nutrient- and oxygen-rich blood t...

hrough your body; it then takes away carbon dioxide and other waste your body doesn't need. Signs of poor circulation include cold hands and feet, numbness, dizziness, migraines, varicose veins and pain in your feet or legs. Untreated, poor circulation can lead to stroke, high blood pressure, kidney damage and other diseases. Learn more about your heart and circulatory system with expert advice from Sharecare.

Important: 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.