In a shocking incident recently, a college student who had just been back from a study tour had died of viral myocarditis. Aryasree, a third year under graduate student at Kannur SN College lost her life a few days after she came back from Chikmanglur. Dr. George Thayyil, founding head of the department of cardiology at the Lourdes Hospital in Ernakulam explains what viral myocarditis is and also its treatment.
Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart muscles or the myocardium. Besides the viral myocarditis that had caused Aryasree’s death, bacteria, parasites and fungi too are responsible for this condition. Myocarditis sometimes occurs if you are exposed to medications and illegal drugs that might cause an allergic or toxic reaction or due to radiation therapies that are done as part of the cancer treatment. If not identified and treated at the right time, myocarditis may turn fatal.
Any viral infection can be the cause of myocarditis. It could be even due to a minor cold or fevers like pneumonia and dengue. These usually affect the lungs and the patient seeks medical treatment for the infection. However, sometimes, the infection spreads to the heart as well which causes the inflammation of the heart muscles. This in turn makes the heart reduce the rate of pumping blood and leads to abnormal heart beats. The patient would then experience fever, fainting, breathing difficulties and abnormal heart rhythms.
Once diagnosed, the patient would be advised complete bed rest, while initiating immediate medical treatment. It is important to identify whether the myocarditis is viral or bacterial before administering the appropriate medication. Myocarditis could be fatal if medical attention is not sought on time.
Rarely, dengue may be the cause of myocarditis. An eco test could be done if the patient complaints of breathing difficulties, abnormal heart beats or suffocation. This would reveal the myocardial fluctuations. Diagnoses could be done through ECG and blood tests as well. If diagnosed, it is important to immediately begin treatment. Sometimes, bed rest is enough to ease myocarditis. If the patient has dengue, treatment for both should be initiated.
If the patient displays abnormal heart rhythms or suffers stroke, medicines for these too should be given. If supplementary treatments are given appropriately, then the patient could recover with just bed rest. However, if these symptoms are ignored, myocarditis could lead to death.