Myocarditis Recovery: How Long Does It Take to Heal?

Myocarditis, a disorder marked by inflammation of myocardium (heart muscle), could be potentially fatal – though it often relieves without leaving serious after effects. The recovery time of the disease (how long it takes to heal) is dependent on several factors. In general, many cases of uncomplicated myocarditis will heal more quickly than if the disease has become advanced.

Treatment options (what you need to know)

Mild, uncomplicated myocarditis is usually not serious and often treated successfully. But in severe cases, the disease may cause damage to the heart, leading to a number of serious problems such as heart failure, heart attack, stroke, and even sudden cardiac death. Even a heart transplant may be required in rare cases.

Since the disease could potentially turn into serious, early diagnosis is important even though if you have the mild one. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to catch the disease early. In fact, data on how many people affected by myocarditis each year is not available.

Sometimes the disease (in mild case) doesn’t exhibit any symptoms, making it difficult to diagnose. The only sign of the disease may be temporary abnormalities shown on echocardiogram and EKG (electrocardiogram) tests. Furthermore, people are more likely to not seek medical help until the symptoms become quite advanced.

In serious situations, (depending on the underlying cause) the symptoms of the disease may include;

  1. Discomfort, painful sensation in the chest.
  2. Arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms).
  3. Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath – especially during physical activity. As the disease progresses, shortness of breath may even occur at rest.
  4. Fluid retention, causing swelling in certain parts of the body such as feet, ankles, and legs. This can occur if the heart works harder than usual.
  5. Other symptoms include viral infectious symptoms (for examples fever, joint pain, body aches, headache, or sore throat) and fatigue.

Treatment options vary, depending on the symptoms, severity, and underlying cause of the disease. But medications that can help your heart work better are usually the main ones.

Some common choices of medications to help treat and relieve myocarditis symptoms are as follows:

  1. ACE (Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme) inhibitors such as Altace, Capoten, and Vasotec. They are heart medications to help dilate, relax, or widen your blood vessels so your heart will work more effectively in pumping blood around the body.
  2. Beta blockers such as carvedilol, metoprolol, and bisoprolol. They can help treat heart failure and its symptoms (including arrhythmias)
  3. ARBs (Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers) such as valsartan and losartan. They are also sometimes prescribed to help relax blood vessels and improve the blood flow.
  4. Diuretics (water pills), to help relieve fluid and sodium retention. They can help your kidneys remove excess water and sodium from the circulation (bloodstream), making your heart work more easily to pump.

In mild cases of myocarditis, patients are usually allowed to rest and take those medications at home without staying at hospital.

Some lifestyle measures can help, too – for examples you’re usually recommended to not drink alcohol, avoid smoking, get enough rest, and avoid strenuous workouts /any activities that cause extreme workload on your heart.

Sometimes myocarditis is linked to a chronic medical condition such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. For such case, treatment is also focused at this underlying disease.

If the disease has become advanced (severe), it may be treated in a hospital. This is especially true if heart damage, heart failure or other complications of the disease have occurred. And a heart transplant may be recommended if other treatments fail to work.

How long does myocarditis take to heal?

The outlook (outcome) of the disease – as well as how long it takes to heal, varies from person to person since the answer is highly variable. As mentioned before, this is dependent on several factors. Some of these factors are as follows:

  1. The underlying cause of the disease. Viral myocarditis, for example, is usually mild and doesn’t lead to serious complications – though sometimes it could also turn into serious. Even it may improve on its own, leading to a complete recovery without leaving any serious after effects.
  2. The severity of the disease. When the disease has become advanced (complicated), it’s more difficult to treat. As a result, this may take longer to heal. In worse situations, the heart damage may become permanent (incurable) and a heart transplant is required.
  3. The patient’s general health. A complete recovery is common in healthy adults with uncomplicated myocarditis, and myocarditis-related echocardiogram and EKG ((electrocardiogram) abnormalities eventually disappear

Though each case is unique, fortunately the prognosis of the disease is mostly positive. In general, uncomplicated myocarditis often heals within several weeks. In other cases, the inflammation and damage of the heart may need longer to heal so this may take a few months or even a year to recover completely. In a minority of cases, the disease causes serious and irreversible damage to the myocardium, leading to a persistent heart failure even though if the inflammation has relieved – therefore, long-term medical therapy or even heart transplantation is suggested.

Another thing to worry is about the chance of the disease to return after treatment (see more in here). Though the rate of myocarditis’s recurrence is low, we should not underestimate this issue. The following tips might help improve your recovery more quickly — as well as prevent the disease from coming back after treatment: