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What is Endocarditis?

Endocarditis is among the rare cardiology conditions causing heart lining, heart valves, and heart muscle inflammation. The condition is also known as infective endocarditis (IE), infectious endocarditis, bacterial endocarditis, and fungal endocarditis. This condition is caused by an endocardium infection which is usually a reason for streptococcal or staphylococcal bacteria.

As per one study, it is discovered that the condition is twice as common in men than in women and usually affects people above 60 years of age. One research suggests that around 4 people in every 100,000 every year are affected and the number is increasing at a rapid rate.

Endocarditis Symptoms

The endocarditis symptoms are not very serious, however, they might get slowly over time. The symptoms are usually similar to any other disease in the early stage of endocarditis. This is one main reason that the condition remains undiagnosed.

The symptoms appear like the flu and other infections such as pneumonia. Some people might experience the symptoms severely because of the inflammation or damage the condition causes.

Here are some of the common endocarditis symptoms:

  • Pale skin, fever, and chills
  • Heart murmur i.e. abnormal heart sound
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Nausea or reduced appetite
  • Always feeling in the abdomen’s upper left
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Swollen feet, abdomen, and legs
  • Shortness of breath and cough

There are less common symptoms as well which include:

  • Weight loss
  • Blood in urine
  • An enlarged spleen

People with endocarditis condition can also experience:

  • Spots on the fingers, skin or toes which are red, or purple.
  • Spots from blood cells that are tiny. These spots usually appear on the eyes, inside the cheeks, mouth, and chest.

It is essential to know that the signs and symptoms of endocarditis condition differ hugely from person to person. They keep changing over time and depend on the infection's causes, heart health and how much time it has already been that the infection is present. So, if you have a history of heart condition, heart surgery, or prior endocarditis, it is recommended to consult your doctor immediately if you experience any of the above-mentioned symptoms. It is important to get in touch with your doctor if you have been experiencing constant fever and you are extremely tired.

Endocarditis causes

One of the primary endocarditis causes is bacterial overgrowth. However, the bacteria usually live on the surfaces outside or inside of the body. You may bring them into your bloodstream by eating or drinking. Bacteria can also enter your body if there are cuts in your skin or there is an oral cavity. Usually, our immune system can fight off bacteria and germs when they cause any issue, but this process may not work for everyone.

The germs move through your bloodstream in endocarditis condition and into your heart causing inflammation. There are several ways you can contract germs and bacteria such as poor oral hygiene, dental procedures, contracting sexually transmitted disease, using a contaminated needle, and through an indwelling urinary catheter.

Risk factors for endocarditis

There are some risk factors for endocarditis condition which include:

  • Illicit intravenous drug injection with a contaminated needle containing bacteria or fungi.
  • Tissue damage from endocarditis in the past
  • Heart defect
  • Artificial heart valve replacement

Endocarditis diagnosis

The doctor will first begin with a physical assessment along with identifying an individual’s symptoms and his/her clinical history before conducting any tests. Once the evaluation is done, the doctor will involve using a stethoscope to listen to the heartbeat. Here are the tests that might be recommended:

  • Blood test: A blood culture test is ordered when the doctor suspects endocarditis. It will help in identifying if fungi, microorganisms, or bacteria are causing the condition.
  • Transthoracic echocardiogram: It is an imaging test and will be ordered to have a view of the patient’s heart and its valves. It involves the use of ultrasound waves for creating the heart’s image and assists the doctor to assess the signs of damage and any heart anomalies.
  • Transesophageal echocardiogram: Sometimes transthoracic echocardiogram fails to assess the patient’s heart appropriately so with this imaging test he/she can view the heart by way of the patient’s oesophagus.
  • Electrocardiogram: This test is recommended to view the heart’s electrical activity as it helps in detecting abnormal heart rates.
  • Chest X-ray: This test is recommended as the doctor can have a look at the patient’s lungs and identify if there is collapse or fluid has amalgamated in them. This test is helpful for the doctor as it is easier to differentiate between endocarditis and other conditions which involve the lungs.

Endocarditis treatment

Endocarditis is a life-restricting condition. Once anyone gets it, it is crucial to take the treatment as soon as possible to prevent heart valve damage and many other severe complications.

For endocarditis treatment, the doctor will start intravenous antibiotic therapy after taking the patient’s blood culture. They will also involve the use of an antibiotic that is broad-spectrum for covering several anticipated bacterial species. After the doctor is confirmed what type of bacteria is targeting the patient, he/she will adjust the antibiotics accordingly. In general, antibiotics are given for around six weeks to cure the infection.

The doctor will evaluate the symptoms throughout therapy and will observe if treatment is effective for the patient. There might be a repetition of blood cultures.

The doctor might recommend surgery for patients who have heart valve damage or any other heart problems. Surgery will help in fixing the heart valve and improving heart functionality.

Once the treatment is complete, the healthcare expert will identify the bacteria sources in the blood and treat them. In the future, it is recommended one must take preventive antibiotics as per national guidelines.


Who is at higher risk of endocarditis?

People who are at higher risk of endocarditis condition include older age, artificial heart valves, damaged heart valves, poor dental health, and long-term catheter use.

How much time does endocarditis take to develop?

Endocarditis is among the conditions that develop slowly and this is why it becomes life-threatening. The condition might take a few weeks to several months to develop.

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