What is Myocarditis?

by Jodee on March 6, 2009

Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart muscle itself. The most common cause of this condition is a virus, but it may also be caused by systemic lupus. Pregnant women are also at risk for developing myocarditis. The condition may develop at the same time as, or right after, a throat or chest infection. Some kinds of viruses that have been linked to myocarditis are:

  • Epstein-Barr
  • Influenza
  • Mumps
  • Rubella (German Measles)
  • Polio
  • Varicella (Chicken Pox)
  • Yellow Fever

The viruses responsible for Hepatitis A and C can also cause myocarditis. After the person recovers from the virus, the inflammation to the heart may not settle down, and this inflammation can have long-term health consequences.

Symptoms of Myocarditis

If the inflammation is mild, the person may not have any symptoms of the disease at all. Some patients complain of chest pain. In more serious cases, the heart muscle becomes weakened as a result of the inflammation, which results in heart failure. At that point, the patient will have shortness of breath and report feeling very tired. A doctor may use an EKG to diagnose myocarditis, and blood tests will indicate the presence of elevated levels of heart muscle enzymes.

Treatment of Myocarditis

Myocarditis is treated by taking measures to prevent the condition from advancing to the stage where heart failure occurs. The patient will be advised to limit salt intake and may be given water pills. ACE inhibitors (to lower blood pressure) or beta blockers may be prescribed as well.


Over the long term, it’s difficult to predict how well a person with myocarditis will do. The condition may clear up on its own, which would be the best-case scenario. For other people, the condition advances into chronic heart failure. Being diagnosed with myocarditis means that you are at risk of developing abnormal heart rhythms. In severe cases, you would need to be outfitted with an implantable defibrillator.

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