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Pericarditis is inflammation of the pericardium, the thin sac (membrane) that surrounds the heart.

The pericardium holds the heart in place and helps it work properly. There is a small amount of fluid between the inner and outer layers of the pericardium. This fluid keeps the layers from rubbing as the heart moves to pump blood.

What causes pericarditis?

Usually, the cause of pericarditis is unknown, but may include:

  • Infection by viruses, bacteria, a fungus, or parasites
  • Autoimmune disorder(such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or scleroderma
  • Inflammation after a heart attack
  • Chest  injury
  • Cancer
  • Tuberculosis
  • Kidney failure
  • Medical treatments such as certain medicines or radiation therapy to the chest
  • Heart surgery

What are the symptoms of pericarditis?

The following are the most common signs of pericarditis:

  • Chest pain that:
    • Can especially be felt behind the breastbone, and sometimes beneath the collarbone (clavicle), neck, and left shoulder
    • Is a sharp, piercing pain over the center or left side of the chest that gets worse when you take a deep breath. It usually gets better if you sit up or lean forward.
    • Feels a lot like a heart attack
  • Fever
  • Weakness and tiredness
  • Coughing
  • Trouble breathing
  • Pain when swallowing
  • Pounding feeling when your heart beats (palpitations)

The symptoms of pericarditis may look like other conditions. See a healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

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