Pericarditis is a heart condition that can affect people at any age. It causes pain in the chest and can be either acute or chronic. Most of the time pericarditis is mild and may not require treatment. However, it can be more severe and need treatment to prevent complications. Recognizing the symptoms of pericarditis may allow you to get care for the older adult in your life sooner.

Pericarditis Overview

Any time you see “-itis” in a medical term, it means inflammation. In the case of pericarditis, the part of the body that is inflamed is the sac that surrounds the heart, called the pericardium. The pericardium is comprised of two layers of tissue with fluid between them to keep the layers from rubbing against each other. The purpose of the sac is to keep the heart where it should be in the chest. It also helps the heart do its work.

When a person has pericarditis, the fluid isn’t enough to keep the swollen layers of the pericardium from touching one another and causing pain.

Many times, doctors are unable to determine the exact cause of pericarditis or believe it is caused by a virus. Other possible causes of the condition are:

  • Heart Attack: Sometimes pericarditis develops a few weeks after a heart attack.
  • Heart Surgery: People who have recently had heart surgery may get pericarditis.
  • Inflammatory Disorders: Conditions that cause widespread inflammation, like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, may lead to pericarditis.
  • Injury: An injury to the chest, such as from a car accident, is another possible cause.
  • Some Medications: Sometimes, though rarely, certain medicines can cause pericarditis as a side effect.
  • Other Conditions: Other medical conditions, including kidney failure and cancer, can be a cause.

Symptoms of Pericarditis

The symptom most people experience with pericarditis is sharp, stabbing pain in the chest. It is usually sudden. Because chest pain can also mean that a person is having a heart attack, you should not assume pericarditis, but should call 911 immediately. Other symptoms that may occur with pericarditis are:

  • Feeling short of breath while lying down.
  • Heart palpitations.
  • A slight fever.
  • A general feeling of sickness.
  • Coughing.
  • Swelling in the abdomen or legs.

If a senior in your life is diagnosed with pericarditis, elderly care can assist them while they recover. An elderly care provider can allow them to rest while they take care of things around the house, including light cleaning, laundry, and meal preparation. An elderly care provider can also remind the older adult to take medications prescribed by the doctor. Elderly care can also offer moral support and a distraction to keep your loved one’s mind off their pain.


When you are in need of care for a senior loved one, consider senior care provided by Golden Heart Senior Care. We have offices nationwide. For more information, call us today at (800) 601-2792.