I have always been in pretty good health, so I was surprised one day when my doctor told me my blood pressure was a bit high. She told me to begin watching my salt intake, start exercising, and to try to relax. Well, I intended to follow her advice when I left her office, but the next day I was back to my same habits. I kept using the salt shaker and didn't begin an exercise routine like I had planned. When I went for my next check-up, she told me that my blood pressure was even higher and approaching a dangerous level. I had to begin a blood pressure medication to manage it. I wanted to create a blog to share my story and remind people to listen to their doctors' advice. If a few lifestyle changes can improve your health, then you should make them.
Lupus is an autoimmune disease that can have an affect on many parts of your body, including your heart. If lupus affects your heart, you may develop myocarditis, a condition characterized by inflammation of the heart muscle. Here are five things you need to know about this serious complication of lupus.
How does lupus cause myocarditis?
When you have lupus, your body's immune system attacks your healthy tissues, like your heart muscle. Antibodies like anti-phospholipid antibodies (aPL) can be responsible for damaging the muscle tissue. These antibodies can be directly responsible in some cases, while in other cases they lead to problems like atherosclerosis or thrombosis which can later lead to muscle damage.
What are the signs of myocarditis?
The signs of myocarditis can vary significantly. If your case is mild, you may feel completely healthy, or you may feel vague, flu-like symptoms and not suspect that anything is wrong with your heart. In more severe cases, you will notice heart-related symptoms such as chest pain or a rapid heart rate. Other symptoms like fatigue or swollen ankles and feet may also be present. If you have lupus and notice any of these signs, seek medical attention right away as you may be experiencing myocarditis.
How is it diagnosed?
Many tests may be required to diagnose myocarditis. Your doctor will start by ordering blood tests. Your blood will then be analyzed in a laboratory for markers that could point to myocarditis, like an increased white blood cell count or elevated cardiac enzymes.
You may also need to undergo an echocardiogram (a heart ultrasound). During this test, a technician will apply gel to your chest and use a handheld device to see a live picture of your heart. They will take photos and send them to your doctor for evaluation.
If these tests suggest that you may have myocarditis, you'll need an endomyocardial biopsy. This is the standard diagnostic test for myocarditis, but since it's invasive, doctors wait to perform it until other, less-invasive tests have proven it necessary. During this test, a surgeon will guide a bioptome (a long probe with tiny scissors on the end) through the veins in your neck and down into your heart. Four to five biopsies will be taken from your heart tissue, and then your doctor will analyze them.
How is myocarditis treated?
Treatment for lupus sufferers with myocarditis is empirical, meaning that it's still experimental. Corticosteroids are the main treatment; they work by both reducing the swelling in your heart and suppressing your immune system's function. Depending on the severity of your illness, you may be given corticosteroid pills or intravenous corticosteroids.
Other drugs have been used off label to treat myocarditis. For example, cyclophosmphamide, a chemotherapy drug, has been successfully used to treat myocarditis in lupus patients. Receiving plasma has also been shown to be helpful as plasma can help remove the damaging antibodies.
Since these treatments are experimental, there isn't much data regarding long term prognosis. Isolated cases have suggested that the prognosis is poor, but more research is needed to confirm this.
Is myocarditis common among lupus sufferers?
Myocarditis is a fairly common complication of lupus. According to Rheumatology, between 3% and 15% of lupus sufferers are diagnosed with the condition. However, the condition may be more common as not all cases are severe enough to be noticed by sufferers and doctors. Postmortem studies of lupus sufferers have shown that about 40% had myocarditis at the time of their deaths.
If you have lupus and develop flu-like symptoms, chest pain, or swollen ankles, you may have myocarditis and should seek medical attention immediately.
For more information on this and other heart related issues, contact a hospital like Van Wert County Hospital.Share
3 November 2015