An infection of the inner lining of one of the four heart valves.
Endocarditis occurs after bacteria begin to accumulate and grow on one of the valves of the heart, becoming an infected mass. This appearance of bacteria generally stems from another part of the body, such as the mouth, that spreads to the heart through the bloodstream.
Although endocarditis can occur in anyone, those at greatest risk of injury by it have heart defects or already damaged heart valves.
Victims of endocarditis can develop such symptoms as fever, fatigue, shortness of breath, aching muscles and joints and collection of fluid in the legs and abdomen.
If left untreated, endocarditis can permanently damage or destroy an individual’s heart valve, leading to life-threatening possibilities. The first line of treatment for this condition is through the use of antibiotics. An individual’s doctor will use blood tests to determine what type of bacteria is causing the infection, which will signal what types of antibiotics to prescribe. If a heart valve has become permanently damaged, or if an individual does not respond positively to the antibiotics, surgery may be used to replace the valve.