Endocardits is a very serious infection of the valves of the heart caused by bacteria or fungi. It doesn’t occur often, but when it does, it can cause serious damage to your valves and put your life at risk.
If you have an abnormal or damaged heart valve, if one or more of heart valves have been repaired or replaced, or if you have had an infection before, you are at risk for endocarditis. Take the following steps to protect yourself:
Tell all of your doctors (including your dentist!) that you have a valve problem that puts you at risk for endocarditis. Remind your doctors that you are at risk before any medical procedures that may cause bleeding, especially procedures on the following:
Talk to your doctor in advance of procedures to make arrangements to take an antibiotic, if necessary.
- breathing tract
- urinary tract system
- digestive tract
- skin and tissue infections
- bowel or bladder
Carry a wallet card stating that you are at risk for endocarditis. The American Heart Association has one you can download. Click here to access it.
Call your doctor if you have the following symptoms or think you could have an infection.
Practice good dental hygiene.
- Unexplained weight loss
- Blood in urine
- Chest pain
- Muscle aches, numbness, or weakness
- Sore throat
- Skin infection
- See your dentist every 6 months for a cleaning.
- Brush and floss your teeth each day as directed by your dentist.
If you experience any symptoms of endocarditis, do not wait to seek medical attention. The sooner it is treated, the better your chances of minimizing damage to your heart.