A sharp pain in the center of your chest that feels like a heart attack coming on may be a sign of pericarditis, an inflammation of the lining surrounding your heart. It’s not something to fool around with or take lightly. While the pain may disappear after a few moments, the damage can be lasting and lead to harsh consequences. Don’t take a chance with your heart; whenever you experience sharp chest pain, get medical attention as soon as you can. At the New York Cardiac Diagnostic Center, you’ll find the best cardiologists in NYC. You can get a thorough evaluation, an accurate diagnosis and the expert treatment you need.
Your heart is surrounded by a thin sac called the pericardium. This sac lubricates and protects your heart and keeps it in place within your chest cavity. It also protects your heart from infections that could damage your heart or spread to nearby organs. The pericardium has two layers:
- The outer layer is known as the fibrous pericardium. It’s made of tough connective tissue.
- The inner layer, called the serous pericardium, helps to lubricate your heart, preventing friction with nearby tissues.
Both layers perform vital functions to keep your heart healthy and functioning properly. If any part of the pericardium becomes inflamed or swollen, it puts pressure on your heart and affects its ability to pump blood. Pericardial disease usually happens suddenly and doesn’t last long. This brief, but painful episode is known as acute pericarditis. If symptoms develop gradually or persist longer than three months, then you’re considered to have developed chronic pericardial disease.
Symptoms of Pericarditis
The most common symptom of pericarditis is a stabbing chest pain in the left side of your chest, usually behind your breastbone. The pain may travel to your left shoulder and neck as well. It may intensify if you lie down or cough or take a deep breath. Some people describe the pain of pericarditis as a dull ache, while others feel a burning pain. The symptoms mimic those of a heart attack, which often pushes people to seek immediate treatment by calling 9-1-1 and acquiescing to a trip to the emergency room.
If you have pericarditis, you may experience shortness of breath, and your heart may feel like it’s racing. You may develop a low-grade fever and chills, too. If you get an acute attack of pericarditis and are cleared from having a heart attack in the ER, your next move should be to make an appointment with a top cardiologist in NYC so your condition doesn’t develop into a chronic one. In Manhattan, that’s the team at the New York Cardiac Diagnostic Center.
Causes of Pericarditis
In many cases, the cause of pericarditis is idiopathic, which means that the cause is unclear. Your Manhattan cardiologist may suspect a viral infection. If you’ve had a heart attack or open heart surgery, you’re at a higher risk of developing pericarditis. That’s why follow-up visits are so vital following any heart surgery. It’s also why you must maintain vigilance with your NYC cardiologist after being treated for heart disease.
Chronic health problems such as tuberculosis, cancer, kidney failure or AIDS may cause pericarditis. Other possible causes of pericarditis include chest trauma and systemic inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. No matter what you think the cause is, get an evaluation from a medical professional.
Diagnosing Pericardial Disease
The best cardiologist in NYC first examines you thoroughly to determine the cause of your chest pain and other symptoms. It’s important that you explain the whole story of your pain and past issues, so tell your doctor about any recent heart problems you’ve had and about your family history with heart disease. Be honest about your diet and lifestyle.
Your cardiology doctor listens to your chest and asks you to describe all the symptoms you’re experiencing, including their intensity and whether the pain is worse when you lie down, breath or cough. You may need to have some blood tests to find out if you’ve had a heart attack or if there are signs of infection. Other tests that help your doctor come to a definitive conclusion include:
- Chest x-rays, for pictures of the inside of your chest to see if your heart is enlarged
- Electrocardiogram, to record the electrical activity of your heart, which can show abnormalities
- Transesophageal Echocardiogram, which uses sound waves to show the size and shape of your heart
- Cardiac MRI, to detect changes in your pericardium
- Cardiac CT, a scan that rules out other causes of your chest pain
Treatment for Pericarditis
The best treatment for pericarditis depends on the severity and cause of your symptoms. If your pericarditis is mild and you have no fever, your cardiology doctor may recommend rest until you feel better. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication can help reduce pain and inflammation. Your cardiologist in New York may give you prescription-strength medication, such as a corticosteroid if your pain is severe and you haven’t responded to more conservative forms of treatment.
Most cases of pericarditis are mild and improve on their own. Treatment for more severe cases and chronic pericardial disease may lead to a hospital stay and in rare cases, surgery. Early diagnosis is the best way to prevent long-term complications. So contact a top cardiologist in NYC for an evaluation.
If you have any questions for the best in class Manhattan cardiologist, top pericarditis specialist or would like to schedule a consultation or appointment please feel free to contact Dr. Steven Reisman of the New York Cardiac Diagnostic Center and indicate which Manhattan office (Upper East Side, Midtown Manhattan, or Wall Street / Financial District) you would like to see the cardiologist for the pericardial disease treatment consultation.