A heart valve infection, or endocarditis, is an infection of the tissue that lines your heart; it can also involve the heart valves. Endocarditis can be subacute, with a gradual onset, or acute, where the infection becomes life threatening within a few days. Prognosis can depend on prompt treatment.
According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the usual cause of a subacute heart valve infection is streptococcus bacteria organisms in your mouth. Fever is the main symptom, along with weight loss, anemia and flulike symptoms; but, because onset is gradual, patients may put off seeing their doctor promptly.
A good prognosis for subacute endocarditis depends on immediately starting an intensive course of antibiotics, usually administered in a hospital at first, over 4 to 6 weeks. Without proper antibiotic therapy, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the infection can damage your heart, can lead to serious complications (such as stroke and mitral valve collapse), and can even be fatal.
According to the iVillage Your Total Health website, the most common cause of acute endocarditis is Staphylococcus aureus bacteria (a staph infection), which enter through a break or lesion in the skin. You become very ill almost immediately, but fever is still the main symptom.
Even with prompt antibiotic therapy, the prognosis for acute endocarditis is guarded, according to iVillage Your Total Health. The bacteria move aggressively to attack your heart valves, causing heart murmurs and even heart failure.
According to CardiologyChannel.com, a combination of antibiotics is often used to increase success in treating both subacute and acute heart valve infections.
Prevention is Vital for Prognosis
According to CardiologyChannel.com, people with existing heart conditions should take antibiotics before dental or surgical procedures, body piercing and tattooing (ie, endocarditis prophylaxis). Good oral hygiene, regular flossing and regular dental cleaning, however, can reduce risk.