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What is subacute bacterial endocarditis?

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Subacute bacterial endocarditis is a bacterial infection of the inner lining of the heart, according to HealthCentral. Mostly, the infection is due mainly to viridans streptococci that attach to damaged heart valves. Treatment focuses on eliminating the bacteria. The most common symptom of endocarditis is fever, which may last for more than a week.

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Other symptoms of subacute bacterial endocarditis include shortness of breath, abdominal pain, diarrhea, cough and joint pain, and these vary among individuals, states HealthCentral. Mostly, people experience heart murmurs; although, patients with right-sided heart infections may not have the murmurs. The most common cause of the condition is streptococcal species and, in rare cases, staphylococci bacteria. The condition occurs when bacteria travel from other parts of the body, such as the pelvic region and gums, via the bloodstream to damaged valves of the heart.

Signs and symptoms such as heart murmurs and fever may help diagnose the problem, explains HealthCentral. Additionally, the doctors may perform blood tests and ultrasound studies to identify the type of bacteria in the valves and the extent of the damage.

A patient with subacute bacterial endocarditis should undertake antibiotic therapy in the hospital and, on occasion, at home according to the doctor's instructions, explains HealthCentral. The therapy normally lasts for at least four weeks. In certain cases, surgery may help treat the damaged heart valve. If left untreated, endocarditis may cause heart failure and blood clots in the bloodstream, which may travel to the lungs and brain.

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