Inflammation of the heart muscle, or myocarditis, is defined as inflammation of the heart muscle. Besides the heart, other organs of the human body are often affected by this inflammation.
Causes of myocarditis
Many different causes can lead to inflammation of the heart muscle. A distinction is made, on the one hand, of infectious causes, that is, viruses or bacteria that are responsible for myocarditis. Virus infection of the heart muscle is the most common cause of myocarditis. In addition, there are also toxic causes, that is, symptoms of intoxication (for example, alcohol) or autoimmune diseases that can lead to myocarditis.
In this article, only virally caused inflammation of the heart muscle will be taken into account because it is the most common and only then will a clear understanding of the disease be reached. Addressing all other causes would compromise the clarity of the article.
Pathophysiology: harmful processes in the heart: two processes of damage to the heart muscle must be distinguished. On the one hand, the direct destruction of the muscle cells of the heart by viruses / multiplication of viruses.
On the other hand, damage to the muscle tissue of the heart by induced endogenous defense. The body’s defense, which is actually the term inflammation, consisting of inflammatory cells and antibodies, tries to kill viruses in the heart. If this is fully successful, the heart can fully recover.
If the viruses cannot be completely eliminated and scars develop on the heart due to inflammation, the damage and loss of the heart’s pumping power will be irreversible.
The following factors are important:
- The aggressiveness of the responsible virus strain.
- The individual genetic ability of humans to fight this type of virus.
- The momentary basic capacity of the immune system.
Symptoms and discomforts caused by myocarditis
Damage to the heart muscle can be very individual and cannot be predicted. For this reason, medical histories range from life-threatening very serious illnesses to harmless histories that are not perceived as inflammation of the heart muscle at all. After all, 70% of all viral inflammations of the heart muscle heal without late effects for the patient.
The following symptoms may indicate concomitant myocarditis if they occur during or after a flu infection:
- Heart pain (pressure, stinging, or spasm-like discomfort), summarized under the term angina pectoris.
- Cardiac stumble, the clinical term for cardiac arrhythmias caused by myocarditis.
- Air distress during stress, physical weakness, decreased performance as an expression of heart failure, caused by a reduction in the pumping power of the heart as a result of inflammation.
How can it be prevented?
During a flu infection, physical exertion should be avoided. Also, in severe colds, physical precautions should be taken. Flu “infection” should be avoided at all costs.
The diagnosis of myocarditis is not always easy as the symptoms are not specific. However, there are some studies that are done in all patients with heart problems. These basic tests are often already evidence of the disease.
In addition, there are several studies that help the doctor understand the cause and severity of the disease as part of an extended diagnosis.
For special questions, the doctor may order additional tests, and it is of great importance to always consult with a specialist before taking any action.