The causes of endocarditis include the entrance of bacteria, fungi, or other harmful germs into the bloodstream that eventually make their way to the heart. This condition most frequently affects individuals with preexisting heart defects, particularly people with damaged heart valves. It is rare for someone with a healthy heart to be diagnosed with endocarditis.
Dangerous microorganisms responsible for endocarditis can invade the bloodstream in several ways, such as:
- Through an infection – Gum disease, skin sores, lacerations, and sexually transmitted diseases all present an opportunity for germs to enter the bloodstream.
- Through routine oral activities – Actions as simple as chewing food and brushing your teeth may cause infection, since the mouth is the main gateway to the bloodstream.
- Through needles – Instruments like needles that are used at body piercing and tattoo salons can be causes of an infection that leads to endocarditis if they are not properly sterilized between uses.
Of course, people are exposed to countless germs every day without becoming ill. This is thanks to the body’s immune system, which defends against infection. If you have a heart condition, simply be mindful of the causes of endocarditis, as well as the presence of associated symptoms such as fever, chills, shortness of breath, and unexplained fatigue. It is important to promptly seek treatment if you suspect something is wrong, as unaddressed endocarditis may lead to life-threatening complications.
Tampa General Hospital’s Cardiovascular Center provides comprehensive diagnosis and treatment services to patients with endocarditis and other cardiovascular conditions. Led by a highly experienced team of heart and vascular specialists, TGH has been recognized as one of America's Best Hospitals for Cardiology & Heart Surgery by U.S. News & World Report.