Infective endocarditis is an infection of the heart lining, heart valves, or blood vessels. The infection is usually caused by bacteria (bacterial endocarditis) but in some rare cases can be caused by fungus (fungal endocarditis). The risk of endocarditis is greater in individuals with heart conditions that prevent blood from moving correctly through the heart, such as those with congenital heart defects, damaged heart valves, or an implanted heart device. Those who have HIV/AIDS or IV drug users are also at increased risk for developing infective endocarditis.
Symptoms of infective endocarditis include fever, chills, fatigue, and achiness. Later symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath, weight loss, muscle and joint pain, a heart murmur, and small spots of blood under the skin or fingernails. The symptoms of infective endocarditis will typically become more severe over time as the bacteria or fungi continues to grow. It is important to seek treatment if you experience these symptoms. If untreated, endocarditis can be fatal.
Infective endocarditis can often be diagnosed using a physical examination, an ultrasound of the heart (echocardiogram), testing of heart rhythm with an EKG, blood cultures to test for bacteria, and an X-ray of the chest. Treatment usually includes IV antibiotics. Good dental hygiene is an important preventative measure, as bacteria from the mouth are likely to enter the bloodstream and can then grow in the heart. Check with your doctor if you think you may be at risk for endocarditis, and you may be given antibiotics to take before a dental procedure. If you have been diagnosed with infective endocarditis, talk to your doctor about the most current treatment options.