How to Recognize Acute Pericarditis vs. a Heart Attack

Man Holding Chest With Nurse Watching.Experiencing chest pain and discomfort can be difficult, especially if you haven’t been diagnosed with a heart condition in the past. But chest discomfort doesn’t always indicate a heart attack. Pericarditis is another heart disease that mimics heart attack symptoms. While any presence of chest pain calls for a trip to the cardiologist, knowing the difference between pericarditis and heart attack symptoms can help to relieve some anxiety. Here, Myocarditis Foundation talks about the difference between the signs of acute pericarditis and a heart attack.

Pericarditis Symptoms

Pericarditis is a disease that affects the tissue that surrounds the heart. This tissue is called the pericardium. Pericarditis causes the tissue to become inflamed, evoking symptoms that feel similar to a heart attack. The most common symptom of pericarditis is sharp chest pain that worsens when laying down or breathing deeply. With acute pericarditis, symptoms can occur suddenly and can disappear after a short amount of time. This makes it difficult to determine if your symptoms stem from pericarditis or a heart attack.

Underlying diseases are the main cause of pericarditis symptoms. Some of these diseases could include:

  • Viral infections
  • Kidney failure
  • Cancer
  • Respiratory infections
  • Digestive system infections
  • Autoimmune disorders

Pericarditis can also occur through using certain medications and heart injuries like a heart attack or surgery. If you are experiencing chest discomfort alongside other health conditions, this can indicate that you may have pericarditis.

Signs of a Heart Attack

Symptoms of a heart attack can differ slightly from those of pericarditis. While some heart attacks can come on suddenly, others may start slowly and progressively worsen over time. With acute pericarditis, chest discomfort occurs and subsides quickly. If you have chest pain that gradually worsens, this can signify that you are experiencing a heart attack.

In addition, heart attack symptoms can vary from pericarditis symptoms because you may feel discomfort in other areas of your body. For example, along with chest pain that lasts longer than a few minutes, patients may also experience:

  • Pain in arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cold sweats
  • Nausea
  • Lightheadedness

Differentiating Between Pericarditis and a Heart Attack

Whether your symptoms stem from pericarditis or a heart attack, it’s important to seek immediate and proper medical attention if you are experiencing chest pain. Leaving it untreated can lead to more serious complications in the future. Because symptoms can vary from person to person, it can be difficult for individuals to detect where symptoms might be coming from. The best way to tell if you have pericarditis or another heart condition is by receiving a formal diagnosis from a doctor. Scheduling regular cardiology appointments are a way to get ahead of your health so you can get the treatment you need if problems arise.

Find More Information at Myocarditis Foundation

Myocarditis Foundation aims to offer accessible resources about myocarditis, pericarditis, and other heart diseases. We are here to provide families, care practitioners, and researchers with the knowledge and support they need to spread awareness. To learn more about myocarditis, acute pericarditis, and additional heart conditions, contact us today.