Pericarditis

Pericarditis causes chest pain and a high temperature (fever). It's not usually serious, but it can cause complications. Get medical advice if you have chest pain.

See a GP or go to your local walk-in centre if your chest pain:

  • is sharp or stabbing
  • gets worse when you take a deep breath in or lie down

These could be symptoms of pericarditis.

Pericarditis can sometimes feel like a dull ache or it can come on gradually.

You may also feel hot and sweaty, short of breath, sick, lightheaded or just unwell.

It often occurs after a viral infection, such as a sore throat or cold.

What happens at your appointment

The GP will listen to your heart (pericarditis can change the sound it makes).

To confirm pericarditis, the GP may:

ECGs are safe and painless, and some GPs are able to carry them out at the GP surgery.

You'll usually be prescribed anti-inflammatory painkillers, and you should feel better within 1 to 2 weeks.

Sitting up or leaning forward can also help ease the pain.

Other medicines, like colchicine and steroids

Other treatments for pericarditis can depend on the cause.

For example, your GP may prescribe these medicines:

  • colchicine – if anti-inflammatory painkillers do not work or you are not able to take them
  • steroids – if colchicine does not work
  • antibiotics – if the pericarditis is caused by a bacterial infection

Your heart has a protective fluid-filled sac around it called the pericardium.

In pericarditis, the pericardium gets inflamed, and blood or fluid can leak into it.

It's difficult to confirm the exact cause of pericarditis, but it's usually a viral infection.

[Last reviewed 2017-08-15]