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Endocarditis is an inflammation of the endocardium, the inner lining of the heart and heart valves. Most cases are caused by a bacterial infection. Endocarditis is a serious ailment that can lead to severe medical complications, and can even be fatal if not treated.
Signs and Symptoms
The most common symptom of endocarditis is fever. The fever may be high or low, and it may seem to come and go. Other common symptoms include the following:
What Causes It?
Most causes of endocarditis are related to a bacterial infection. Usually your body fights off an infection, even if bacteria reach your heart. But when heart valves or tissues are damaged, they provide a good place for bacteria to lodge and multiply. Your risk of endocarditis increases if you have heart disease or mechanical heart valves. Procedures that increase your risk of endocarditis include dental procedures that irritate the gums, tonsillectomy, adenoidectomy, intestinal and respiratory surgery, gallbladder surgery, cystoscopy, bronchoscopy, and vaginal delivery with an infection present.
What to Expect at Your Provider's Office
Your health care provider will listen to your heart and lungs, take your pulse, and check your eyes and skin. They likely will order several tests, which could include blood tests, urine analysis, an echocardiogram, a computed tomography (CT) scan, a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and a cinefluoroscopy (a motion-picture type heart scan). Usually, your provider will admit you to the hospital, possibly in intensive care, until your symptoms are under control.
Your health care provider will treat endocarditis with high doses of antibiotics, almost always intravenously. Sometimes, surgery is also required.
Endocarditis is usually treated with a combination of two or three antibiotics such as penicillin, gentamicin, vancomycin, cefazolin, ceftriaxone, nafcillin, oxacillin, rifampin, and ampicillin. Treatment is determined by what type of bacteria is infecting your heart and generally takes 2 - 6 weeks. In patients with endocarditis, long term daily use of aspirin does not reduce the risk of embolic events, but may be associated with a higher level of bleeding.
Complementary and Alternative Therapies
Endocarditis has serious ramifications and requires aggressive medical treatment. Endocarditis should never be treated with alternative therapies alone. Inform all of your health care providers of any alternative medicine therapies or supplements you are using.
Following these nutritional tips may help reduce symptoms:
You may address nutritional deficiencies with the following supplements:
Herbs are generally a safe way to strengthen and tone the body's systems. As with any therapy, you should work with your health care provider to determine the safest and most effective botanical therapies before starting any treatment. Always tell your health care provider about any herbs you may be taking. You may use herbs as dried extracts (capsules, powders, teas), glycerites (glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Unless otherwise indicated, make teas with 1 tsp. herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 - 10 minutes for leaf or flowers, and 10 - 20 minutes for roots. Drink 2 - 4 cups per day. You may use tinctures alone or in combination as noted.
Although very few studies have examined the effectiveness of specific homeopathic therapies, professional homeopaths may consider the following remedies as a supplemental treatment for the symptoms of endocarditis, as long as the underlying infection has been appropriately treated. Before prescribing a remedy, homeopaths take into account a person's constitutional type -- your physical, emotional, and psychological makeup. An experienced homeopath assesses all of these factors when determining the most appropriate treatment for each individual.
Acupuncture may help improve immunity and strengthen heart function.
In addition to monitoring your condition while you are in the hospital, your health care provider will order follow up procedures, such as blood tests, to determine how well the prescribed treatment is working.
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Review Date: 3/2/2012
Reviewed By: Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
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