DEFINITION OF pericarditis
The pericardium is a thin membrane that surrounds the heart like a sac. It provides lubrication for the heart, contains it within the chest cavity, and shields it from infection and other types of harm.
Pericarditis is a condition in which that lining becomes inflamed. The pain that occurs during a pericarditis episode is caused by the irritated layers of the pericardium rubbing against each other.
Types of Pericarditis
Pericarditis may occur as a one-time episode or it may recur. When pericarditis recurs more than 4 weeks after the first flare, it is called recurrent pericarditis.
A first or one-time episode of pericarditis is different from recurrent pericarditis in not only the number of times it occurs, but also what causes it and how it is treated.
FIRST OR ONE-TIME EPISODE OF PERICARDITIS
Causes of a one-time episode include:
Just like it sounds, recurrent pericarditis is when a pericarditis flare happens again.
The cause of recurrent pericarditis is different from a first or one-time episode of pericarditis. Recurrent pericarditis is an autoinflammatory disease, meaning the flares are caused by the immune system attacking the pericardium, with each attack causing inflammation that leads to more immune system response and more inflammation in an ongoing cycle.
The Cycle of Autoinflammation IN RECURRENT PERICARDITIS
Cells in the pericardium become inflamed, causing a flare.
Inflamed cells release a protein called interleukin-1 (IL-1).
IL-1 signals the immune system to send immune cells to the pericardium.
Immune cells cause damage and inflammation.
Even though first or one-time episodes and recurrent pericarditis are different, the symptoms are the same.
Main symptom: chest pain that feels worse when breathing in or lying down
Back, neck, or shoulder pain
Overall sense of weakness and fatigue
Shortness of breath when lying down
Swelling in the abdomen, legs, or feet