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What is myocarditis?

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Quick Answer

Myocarditis is the inflammation of the middle layer of the heart wall, states Mayo Clinic. Myocarditis is common in people with HIV, the AIDS-causing virus.

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Common myocarditis symptoms include fatigue, chest pain, altered heart rhythms, shortness of breath and fluid retention, notes Mayo Clinic. Children with myocarditis may have symptoms such as fainting, fever, rapid breathing, breathing difficulty and altered heart rhythms. Mild cases of myocarditis may have no evident symptoms. Myocarditis can be caused by diseases, viruses, bacteria, parasites and fungi, and it could also occur when an individual is exposed to certain medications, illegal drugs, radiation and chemicals. Practicing safe sex, abstaining from illegal drugs, avoiding individuals with flu-like illnesses, avoiding tick bites and using good hygiene may reduce the risk of acquiring myocarditis.

An electrocardiogram, chest X-ray, MRI, echocardiogram and blood tests confirm a myocarditis diagnosis and determine its severity, explains Mayo Clinic. Mild cases of myocarditis may improve on its own, and a doctor may prescribe antibiotics to help fight the infection. Corticosteroids and other medications that suppress immune system responses treat certain types of myocarditis caused by viruses. Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, angiotensin II receptor blockers, beta blockers and diuretics treat a heart weakened by myocarditis, and aggressive treatments such as intra-aortic balloon pumps, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation machine, intravenous medications and ventricular assist devices treat more severe cases of myocarditis.

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