The symptoms of fluid around the heart, or pericardial effusion, depend on the condition’s cause. For example, when fluid builds up around the heart due to pericarditis, the main symptom is chest pain, notes WebMD. Other symptoms include fever, muscle aches, shortness of breath and fatigue.
If viral illness is present along with pericarditis, vomiting, nausea and diarrhea are often accompanying symptoms. Patients with chest pain that occurs with pericardial effusion resulting from pericarditis often find relief by leaning forward, while breathing deeply exacerbates the chest pain, reports WebMD. When pericardial effusion occurs absent of pericarditis, there may be no symptoms at all. Sometimes pericardial effusion occurs without any known cause; in this instance, doctors refer to it as an idiopathic pericardial effusion.
Large pericardial effusions often cause shortness of breath, lightheadedness, fainting, and cool or clammy skin, notes WebMD. Palpitations, or the sensation of the heart beating too rapidly, or pounding may also occur.
Fluid around the heart is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical evaluation, according to WebMD. Pericardial effusions often occur as a result of cancer, heart attack or severe kidney failure. Bacterial infections such as tuberculosis and autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus may also cause fluid to build up around the heart.