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What are the causes of fluid in the heart?

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Quick Answer

Infection, inflammation, injury and cancer are among the potential causes of fluid around the heart, states the Mayo Clinic. Cancer treatment and prescription drugs are possible causes as well.

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Full Answer

The heart exists within a membranous sac called the pericardium, explains Mayo Clinic, and trauma to the pericardium causes fluid to accumulate between the membrane and the heart. This condition is pericardial effusion, which leads to heart failure without treatment. Any infection of the heart or pericardium is a potential risk factor for effusion, as is inflammation.

Injury to the heart or near the heart is also a potential cause of pericardial effusion, notes Mayo Clinic. The pericardium is susceptible to cancer, but metastasized leukemia, lung cancer or breast cancer are equally likely to lead to pericardial effusion. Fluid on the heart may also result from both radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Some drugs useful in the treatment of tuberculosis, epilepsy and high blood pressure present a risk of fluid on the heart. Finally, arthritis, lupus or kidney failure are risk factors.

WebMD states that pericardial effusion due to inflammation presents symptoms such as fever, tiredness, muscle pain and difficulty breathing. Nausea and vomiting occur when inflammation is due to infection. Some pericardial effusions cause no symptoms, but large, life-threatening effusions present warning signs such as dizziness, fainting, a racing heart and clammy skin.

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