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Myocarditis

Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on May 20, 2022.

Overview

Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart muscle (myocardium). The inflammation can reduce the heart's ability to pump blood. Myocarditis can cause chest pain, shortness of breath, and rapid or irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmias).

Infection with a virus is one cause of myocarditis. Sometimes a drug reaction or general inflammatory condition causes myocarditis.

Severe myocarditis weakens the heart so that the rest of the body doesn't get enough blood. Clots can form in the heart, leading to a stroke or heart attack.

Treatment for myocarditis may include medications, procedures or surgeries.

Myocarditis

Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart muscle. This illustration shows a typical heart muscle compared to damaged heart muscle due to inflammation.

Symptoms

Some people with early myocarditis don't have symptoms. Others have mild symptoms.

Common myocarditis symptoms include:

Sometimes, myocarditis symptoms are like a heart attack. If you are having unexplained chest pain and shortness of breath, seek emergency medical help.

Myocarditis in children

When children develop myocarditis, symptoms may include:

When to see a doctor

Contact your health care provider if you have symptoms of myocarditis. Symptoms of myocarditis can seem like a heart attack. Get emergency medical help if you have unexplained chest pain, rapid heartbeats or shortness of breath.

If you have severe symptoms, go to the emergency room or call for emergency medical help.

Causes

Myocarditis may be caused by infections, some drugs and chemicals, or a condition that causes body-wide inflammation. Often, the cause of myocarditis isn't found.

Potential causes of myocarditis include:

Myocarditis may also be caused by:

Complications

Usually, myocarditis goes away without permanent complications. However, severe myocarditis can permanently damage the heart muscle.

Potential complications of myocarditis may include:

Prevention

There's no specific prevention for myocarditis. However, taking these steps to prevent infections might help:

Diagnosis

Early diagnosis of myocarditis is important to preventing long-term heart damage. To diagnose myocarditis, a health care provider will typically examine you and listen to your heart with a stethoscope.

Blood and imaging tests may be done to check your heart health. Imaging tests can help confirm myocarditis and determine its severity.

Tests to diagnose myocarditis include:

Treatment

Often, myocarditis improves on its own or with treatment. Myocarditis treatment focuses on the cause and the symptoms, such as heart failure.

Medications

People with mild myocarditis may only need rest and medication. Medications to treat myocarditis may include:

Some people with myocarditis may need medications for just a few months and then recover completely. Others may have long-term, permanent heart damage that needs lifelong medication. It's important to have regular health checkups after a diagnosis of myocarditis to check for possible complications.

Surgeries and procedures

If you have severe myocarditis, you will need aggressive treatment, which might include:

Lifestyle and home remedies

Rest and reducing the strain on the heart is an important part of myocarditis recovery. If you have or had myocarditis, ask your health care provider which type and amount of physical activity is safe for you.

If you have myocarditis, you should avoid competitive sports for at least 3 to 6 months.

Following a healthy lifestyle is an important part of myocarditis treatment and recovery. Try these heart-healthy strategies:

Some people may need to restrict fluids. Ask your care provider what your fluid intake should be.

Preparing for an appointment

If you have mild myocarditis symptoms, you may start with your primary care provider. If symptoms are severe, you may first be seen by an emergency room care provider. You'll likely be referred to a doctor trained in heart conditions (cardiologist) and possibly a doctor trained in infectious disease.

What you can do

Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment. Write down the following details:

For myocarditis, basic questions to ask your care provider include:

Don't hesitate to ask other questions. Take a family member or friend along to your appointment, if possible, to help you remember the information you'll receive.

What to expect from your doctor

Your care provider is likely to ask many questions, including:

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