Endocarditis is an infection of the inner lining of your heart (endocardium).

Endocarditis generally occurs when bacteria or other germs from another part of your body, such as your mouth, spread through your bloodstream and attach to damaged areas in your heart. Left untreated, endocarditis can damage or destroy your heart valves and can lead to life-threatening complications. Treatments for endocarditis include antibiotics and, in certain cases, surgery.

Endocarditis is uncommon in people with healthy hearts. People at greatest risk of endocarditis have damaged heart valves, artificial heart valves or other heart defects.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications Prevention

Endocarditis may develop slowly or suddenly — depending on what's causing the infection and whether you have any underlying heart problems. Endocarditis signs and symptoms vary, but may include:

  • Fever and chills
  • A new or changed heart murmur — heart sounds made by blood rushing through your heart
  • Fatigue
  • Aching joints and muscles
  • Night sweats
  • Shortness of breath
  • Paleness
  • Persistent cough
  • Swelling in your feet, legs or abdomen
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Blood in your urine (either visible or found in a doctor's viewing of your urine under a microscope)
  • Tenderness in your spleen — an infection-fighting abdominal organ on your left side, just below your rib cage
  • Osler's nodes — red, tender spots under the skin of your fingers
  • Petechiae (puh-TEE-key-ee) — tiny purple or red spots on the skin, whites of your eyes or inside your mouth

When to see a doctor

If you develop signs or symptoms of endocarditis, see your doctor right away — especially if you have risk factors for this serious infection, such as a heart defect or a previous case of endocarditis.

Although less serious conditions can cause similar signs and symptoms, you won't know for sure until you're evaluated.

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