• Cardiovascular

    Mayo Clinic Minute: What is pericarditis?

Pericarditis is a challenging illness that's often mistaken for a heart attack or other organ disease. In this Mayo Clinic Minute, Dr. Leslie Cooper Jr., a Mayo Clinic cardiologist, explains what pericarditis is and how it's treated.

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"Pericarditis is simply inflammation of the lining of the heart tissue, or the pericardium," says Dr. Cooper.

When the irritated layers of the pericardium rub together, it can cause sharp chest pain, a symptom that can often be mistaken for a heart attack, which can make it difficult to diagnose.

"Pericarditis has a classic type of chest pain, better if you lean forward and worse if you lay on your back," says Dr. Cooper.

"Most patients who develop pericarditis have had a recent viral infection, and those affect people of all ages, but especially young individuals, more commonly males than females in the general population," he says.

Other less common causes include chronic health conditions, such as kidney failure, cancer, prior radiation and atypical infections.

"The good news is that the vast majority of people with pericarditis recover and have normal lives with no further symptoms. A small percentage will go on to have a chronic or recurrent chest pain syndrome. Chronic pericarditis has specific therapies," says Dr. Cooper.