Why does fluid around the heart cause problems for heart function?


Quick Answer

Fluid around the heart causes problems because too much liquid causes the pericardium, the double-walled sac around the heart, to expand inward, putting pressure on the heart, according to Mayo Clinic. This pressure prevents the heart's chambers from filling completely, causing poor circulation and robbing the body of oxygen.

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Full Answer

The inner lining of the pericardium is a single cell in thickness, while the outer lining is thicker. The outer lining is limited in the amount it stretches. If the pressure becomes too great, it causes one or more of the chambers to collapse, Mayo Clinic indicates.

To treat fluid around the heart, doctors prescribe medication, including large doses of ibuprofen to help reduce swelling and pain, states MedlinePlus. If the condition is due to a bacterial infection, they prescribe an antibiotic. They prescribe antifungal medications if a fungal infection is present, while diuretics help to reduce the fluid buildup in the body. If the fluid is causing heart problems, the doctor inserts a needle through the chest into the pericardium to remove the fluid.

If the condition is mild, the fluid buildup often resolves itself. If the condition is severe, the pericardium sometimes becomes scarred and thickened, according to MedlinePlus. This condition is similar to heart failure.

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