Are you at risk for a heart valve infection?

Just as you can get a bacterial infection in your lungs, such as bronchitis, you can get a bacterial infection in one or more of your heart valves. Heart valve infections, also called endocarditis, happen when bacteria enters your bloodstream and settles in your heart’s valves or in the inner lining of your heart.

You are more at risk for a heart valve infection if you have:

  • A heart valve problem since birth (congenital heart defect)
  • A central venous catheter or hemodialysis access port
  • Current or prior illegal injected drug use
  • History of endocarditis (infection of the heart’s inner lining)
  • HIV
  • Implanted heart device, such as a pacemaker
  • Previous heart valve problems, including surgery or transplant

If you are at risk for a heart valve infection, you may need to take preventative antibiotics before you have surgery or other dental and medical procedures. The experts at Main Line Health can diagnose and treat heart valve infections to help you return to full health.

Simple treatment is life saving

If you have a heart valve infection, you may notice symptoms right away, or they may develop slowly, over time. The most common symptoms of a heart valve infection include:

  • Blood under the fingernails
  • Cough that won’t go away
  • Fatigue
  • Fever and flu-like symptoms
  • Increased heart rate
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Red or purple dots under the skin
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling in the feet, arms or abdomen
  • Unexplained weight loss

If you have a heart valve infection, you need treatment right away. Heart valve infections that are not treated could lead to serious complications, including heart failure, heart attack or stroke.

Treatment for heart valve infection may include high-dose antibiotics and careful monitoring. Most treatment for heart valve infection takes between two and six weeks of IV (through the vein) antibiotics.

To schedule an appointment with a Lankenau Heart Institute specialist, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (1.866.225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.