When a senior complains of chest pain, your first reaction may be that they are having a heart attack. Of course, any time a person experiences chest pain you should seek emergency medical attention. However, sometimes chest pain can be caused by a less serious condition called pericarditis. Though pericarditis is not uncommon, it may not be a condition you are familiar with until a loved one is diagnosed with it. Knowing more about pericarditis can help you to better deal with your parent’s symptoms and communicate their needs with home care providers.

What is the Pericardium?
The pericardium is a sac that surrounds the heart. Its purpose is to keep the heart in place and to help the heart work. Although thin, the pericardium consists of three parts: the inner layer (visceral pericardium) of tissue, a layer of fluid that keeps the two tissue layers from rubbing together, and the outer tissue layer (parietal pericardium). Pericarditis occurs when any of the layers becomes inflamed, causing the layers to rub together and create painful friction.

What Causes Pericarditis?
Much of the time doctors aren’t able to pinpoint the cause of pericarditis. These cases of indeterminate cause are called idiopathic pericarditis. Some possible causes of pericarditis include:

  • Viral infection.
  • Fungal infection.
  • Bacterial infection.
  • Heart surgery.
  • Heart attack.
  • Radiation therapy.
  • Tumors.
  • Trauma.
  • Autoimmune diseases.
  • Some medications.

Usually, pericarditis comes on suddenly and only lasts for a short time. Sudden cases of pericarditis are called acute. When pericarditis symptoms come on gradually or don’t’ go away, the condition is considered chronic.

What are the Symptoms of Pericarditis?
The symptoms of pericarditis vary depending on whether it is chronic or acute. A person with pericarditis may experience only a few or all the symptoms below:

  • Sharp pain in the chest that gets worse during inhaling.
  • Heart palpitations.
  • Fever.
  • Feeling short of breath when lying down.
  • Coughing.
  • Swelling in the legs or abdomen.
  • A feeling of weakness, sickness, or fatigue.

What Help Does a Senior with Pericarditis Need at Home?
Sometimes pericarditis does not require treatment, only that the person rests until the symptoms go away. Most of the time, pericarditis clears up in two to four weeks. Doctors may prescribe medications, such as antibiotics and NSAIDs. In rare cases, surgery may be required.

A senior who has been diagnosed with pericarditis may need home care to ensure they rest while they recuperate. A home care provider can assist the senior with tasks around the house, like cooking and cleaning, while the senior takes it easy and focuses on getting better. A home care provider can also remind the senior to take medications. Home care may be especially important a diagnosis of pericarditis resulted in surgery since the recovery period may be more lengthy.


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