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pericarditis by the numbers

1 in 3 people infographic

Up to 1 in 3 people

with a first episode of pericarditis will experience recurrent pericarditis within 18 months of their first flare.

There are approximately



with recurrent pericarditis in the United States.



have had 2 or more recurrences.

Research shows that recurrent pericarditis impacts men and women of different ages, racial groups, and economic levels.

Recurrent pericarditis can last for many years. In a study of people with recurrent pericarditis,* researchers found that the disease could last (on average) about:

6 months

for people who had experienced
just 1 recurrence

3 years

for people who had experienced
2 or more recurrences

*In this study, 569 people had 1 recurrence and 375 had 2 or more recurrences.

Impact on everyday living

If your recurrent pericarditis has a significant impact on your life, you are not alone.

Image - Dona facing camera

In a study published in the American Journal of Cardiology, researchers surveyed 83 adults with recurrent pericarditis to understand how the disease was affecting their lives.

Recurrent pericarditis was shown to affect:

Physical and mental health icon

physical and mental health

Sleep quality icon

sleep quality

Work productivity icon

work productivity

Even among those not experiencing an episode at the time of the study (62 of the 83 participants), the impact was significant. Nearly all participants reported living in fear of their next pericarditis recurrence and about half reported that the fear profoundly impacted their life.

Help others understand what you are going through.

Because recurrent pericarditis symptoms cannot be seen from the outside, family, friends, coworkers, and employers may not understand how debilitating this condition can be. Here are some steps you can take to help them understand:

Invisible symptoms icon

Point out that some symptoms may not be visible but can still be very challenging, such as extreme fatigue or emotional concerns

Need for rest icon

Explain that you might need to rest even when doing things as simple as getting a glass of water or getting dressed

Heart rate icon

If your healthcare provider recommends keeping your heart rate below 100 beats per minute, let them know that you may need to avoid social events or other activities to reduce the risk of a flare

Informational websites icon

Ask them to learn more about your condition. Direct them to informational websites (such as this site) to help them understand the impact of living with this disease

Download this fact sheet to aid in your discussion with people in your life.

potential risks

Both one-time episodes and recurrent pericarditis can lead to potentially serious complications. These risks are greater with recurrent pericarditis, but early action can help.

  • If left untreated, some people may experience pericardial effusion, a buildup of too much fluid in the pericardium
  • If pericardial effusion worsens, cardiac tamponade may occur, which means the fluid buildup is putting pressure on the heart and preventing it from pumping properly
    • If this happens, your healthcare provider will discuss options to ease the buildup of fluid such as removing it with a needle or tube
  • Another risk, although rare, is constrictive pericarditis, which happens when the pericardium becomes scarred and stiff, limiting the heart’s pumping action
    • In some cases of constrictive pericarditis, the pericardium may need to be partially or completely removed

Did you know?

Recurrent pericarditis can be so painful that it is sometimes mistaken for a heart attack. Flares can often to lead to hospital stays and emergency room visits.

The risk of these complications can be reduced by speaking with your healthcare provider at the first signs of a pericarditis flare. If you suspect you may be experiencing a flare, speak with a healthcare professional right away.

Pericarditis and COVID-19

COVID-19 has been shown to affect those with compromised immune systems more severely. This includes individuals with pericarditis.

Research indicates that the virus can have an impact on the heart (and has been shown to trigger some cases of pericarditis). If you develop COVID-19 symptoms or suspect you may be infected, be sure to tell any healthcare providers you see that you have a history of pericarditis. This will help them manage your care appropriately.

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