The most common symptom of pericarditis is chest pain. Chest pain associated with pericarditis can be mild or severe, and is commonly felt below the breastbone and below the ribs on the left side of the chest. Occasionally the pain spreads to the upper back or neck. When the lungs and heart move in the chest and rub against the irritated pericardium, pain often worsens. Therefore, the chest pain becomes more severe upon taking a deep breath, swallowing, coughing, or lying down. Sitting up or leaning forward may relieve the pain.
Swelling, shortness of breath, and fever are symptoms of severe pericarditis. Patients who have complications of pericarditis including chronic pericarditis, constrictive pericarditis, and cardiac tamponade can experience more severe symptoms. These include low blood pressure, shortness of breath, and swelling of the feet, ankles, legs, and abdomen.
Having a heart condition, being a man between the ages of 20 to 50, undergoing cardiac surgery, or having cancer are all considered risk factors for developing pericarditis. If you have HIV, lupus or kidney disease, you are also at risk.
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