While world leaders and health officials continue to fight the spread of COVID-19, also known as SARS-CoV-2, doctors and other scientists around the world, including those supported by the Myocarditis Foundation, are racing to better understand the new, novel coronavirus, especially its most severe and potentially fatal symptoms and complications – all with the goal of developing potentially life-saving treatments.
Although it is a relatively rare cardiovascular disease, myocarditis has been reported in patients diagnosed with COVID-19, making it important for everyone, especially those diagnosed with COVID-19, to be aware of some of the symptoms of coronavirus that may indicate possible inflammation of the heart.
The Coronavirus and Myocarditis Connection
Myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle, is a condition caused by the body’s immune response to infection. Viral infections, generally, are one of the most common causes of heart muscle inflammation. In a May 5, 2020 article published in Heart Rhythm, titled Recognizing COVID-19–related myocarditis: The possible pathophysiology and proposed guideline for diagnosis and management, the authors note that COVID-19-related myocarditis may be caused by a combination of direct viral injury and cardiac damage due to the host’s immune response.
Co-author of the article, Dr. Leslie T. Cooper, Chair, Enterprise Department of Cardiovascular Medicine for Mayo Clinic in Florida, and the Executive Medical Director and founder of the Myocarditis Foundation, says, “We know from our experience in the U.S., China, Italy, and Spain that of the people hospitalized for SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19, between 10 and 25 percent of them, depending on the study, have cardiac damage. Most of these patients are older and have pre-existing heart conditions. However, when young, otherwise healthy people experience certain symptoms of SARS-CoV-2, it’s more likely to be related to myocarditis.”
Symptoms to Watch for If You’ve Been Diagnosed with COVID-19
If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, it’s important to consult with your doctor immediately if you have shortness of breath, chest pain, or heart palpitations. These symptoms may indicate myocarditis as a complication of having the virus.
Risk Factors for Developing Coronavirus-Related Myocarditis
While commonly cited risk factors for severe COVID-19 illness include advanced age and underlying health conditions, there are no known risk factors for developing SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) myocarditis. Much more research is needed to understand both the overall risks for severe illness due to COVID-19 and the risks for specific conditions, such as myocarditis.
Myocarditis can affect individuals of any age, gender, race, and health condition. However, with myocarditis unrelated to SARS-CoV-2, we know that it affects young adult males at a higher rate.
Recommendations for Patients with COVID-19 and Coronavirus-Related Myocarditis
If you’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19 and you have no symptoms, you should follow the CDC guideline to quarantine for 10 days. There’s no treatment necessary. If you are a competitive athlete, you should refrain from competitive sports during your quarantine period.
If your doctor suspects you have myocarditis with COVID-19, he or she may perform tests, including blood tests, physical exams, echocardiography and electrocardiograms to examine heart function, and tests to rule out other conditions. If you are diagnosed with COVID-19 and myocarditis, you will need to abstain from competitive sports for at least 3 months. At a minimum, after 3 months, you should have an exam and an exercise treadmill test.
If you have COVID-19 and heart conditions other than myocarditis, you should be treated by your healthcare provider for those specific heart issues.
In the course of your treatment, you may also be eligible to take part in a viral therapy or immunotherapy clinical trial that will help further the research into finding effective treatments.
Find Out More about Coronavirus-Related Myocarditis
Knowing what to look for and being vigilant regarding your COVID-19 symptoms is vital for a healthy recovery from coronavirus and myocarditis. The Myocarditis Foundation continues to support the accelerated understanding of potential links between COVID-19 and myocarditis. To find out more, contact us today.