Myocarditis is an inflammation of the middle layer of the heart’s wall (myocardium). It doesn’t always cause symptoms, especially when it’s mild. And if the symptoms occur, they can also vary, depending on the cause and severity of the disease. One of the main ones is chest pain – what does it feel like?
Chest pain is one of common myocarditis symptoms, but it’s not always easy to describe. You may also find it is vague, in which ‘pain’ doesn’t seem to be an enough description.
Though the chest pain of myocarditis may vary from person to person, it usually feels like achy squeezing or pressure in the chest. In mild and moderate cases, typically the pain is mild (not painful enough to significantly interfere with your daily routines).
The pain usually occurs with shortness of breath. And typically, they get worse on exertion or during exercise. As the inflammation progresses, these symptoms may also occasionally flare up at rest.
In severe cases, the disease could be fatal if not promptly treated. But sometimes severe myocarditis may not be identified until heart failure symptoms develop.
When the disease has become advanced, it may permanently damage the heart muscle, causing a number of serious complications such as heart failure and heart attack. The good news, it is mild and moderate in most cases.
Uncomplicated myocarditis often heals on its own or with treatment – read also how long it takes to heal in here! Since early diagnosis is important to prevent long-term heart damage, see your doctor without delay if you have any unusual symptoms!
Along with achy chest pain and shortness of breath, myocarditis may also cause some of the following symptoms (depending on the severity and cause of the disease):
- Arrhythmias, abnormal /rapid heart rhythms.
- Fatigue (lethargy). Without known reason, you can get tired easily.
- Decreased ability to exercise.
- Flulike symptoms (if the inflammation of myocardium is caused by viral infection). These include fever & chills, body aches, headache, sore throat, cough, or general feeling of illness (malaise).
- Fluid retention (edema), causing swelling in certain parts of the body such as legs, ankles, and feet.
- Persistent myocarditis will make the heart work harder, causing heart failure symptoms such as increased need to pass urine at night, unintentional weight gain from edema, decreased alertness, difficulty concentrating, and loss of appetite.
Sometimes myocarditis chest pain may occur without other symptoms. So even though the pain doesn’t come with other myocarditis symptoms mentioned above, it deserves medical attention (particularly if it doesn’t improve or gets worse over time)!
The only indication of heart inflammation may be weakened strength of heart contractions or other temporary abnormalities that show up on an electrocardiogram (ECG), a test to check your heart function by measuring the heart’s electrical activity. Other additional tests may also be required to diagnose myocarditis, these include; imaging tests (chest X-ray or MRI for example), blood tests, or even a heart biopsy if necessary.
Accurate diagnosis is required to determine your best treatments. And it’s going harder if you don’t explain clearly what you have. Also, some tests such as ECG and blood tests don’t always show abnormalities even though if you have myocarditis or other heart problems.
What you describe to your doctor (including your medical history) can help a lot to pinpoint the underlying cause of your chest pain. Here are a few important questions you need to answer and tell clearly to your doctor:
- Does it come with any other symptoms such as difficulty breathing or something else?
- When did it start to occur?
- Have you had it before? If you have a personal history of myocarditis, you may be at high risk of the recurrence (see more in here)
- Is there any factor that provokes the pain such as exercise, stress, or lying down? Chest pain that gets worse when you lay down may signal another heart-inflammation condition such as pericarditis.
- How long does it last? Is it constant? Or does it come & go? Severe myocarditis may cause gradual onset of pain for a few minutes. If the pain lasts over 5 minutes or more, seek emergency treatment because this may signal a heart attack! If it is fleeting but severe, it’s still recommended to have a medical professional evaluate you!
- Is it diffuse (radiating) or pinpoint discomfort? The pain of myocarditis is usually diffuse (depending on the severity of the disease). Pinpoint discomfort in the chest (especially if it worsens or improves with positional changes in breathing) is less likely associated with heart problem.
*For more guidance, ask your doctor!