Causes of pericarditis include viral infections, such as influenza, Coxsackie virus or echovirus, and bacterial infections, heart attack, heart surgery and inflammation or swelling of the heart, according to MedlinePlus. Certain medications, such as isoniazid, procainamide, hydralazine and phenytoin, also sometimes cause pericarditis.
Additional causes of pericarditis include inflammatory disorders, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, and other health disorders that include AIDS, cancer, tuberculosis, kidney failure and cancer, reports Mayo Clinic. In some cases, severe injury to the heart or chest causes pericarditis.
In pericarditis, the pericardial sac surrounding the heart becomes inflamed and irritated, resulting in chest pains, states Mayo Clinic. It most often affects men between the ages of 20 and 50, notes MedlinePlus. In addition to near-constant, sometimes stabbing chest pain, other symptoms include ankle, feet or leg swelling, fatigue, dry cough and difficulty breathing when lying down. When an infection causes pericarditis, symptoms may include sweating, fever or chills.
Doctors typically prescribe pericarditis patients high doses of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen, to reduce inflammation in the pericardial sac and alleviate pain. If the condition persists, doctors may prescribe colchicine or corticosteroids. A surgical procedure called a pericardiectomy is sometimes necessary in severe cases of pericarditis.