Harvard Heart Letter

Heart infection can pose a medical mystery

Myocarditis often masquerades as a variety of other problems.

Nestled deep in the chest, the heart is protected from the physical forces that scrape skin or break bone. But it isn't immune to infection and inflammation. Each year, thousands of people develop myocarditis, an inflammation of the middle, muscular layer of the heart. It is triggered by infection, allergic reactions to drugs or chemicals, and some diseases. Myocarditis can be so mild that it passes unnoticed, and so serious that it causes heart failure or sudden death. Since there isn't one sign or symptom that shouts "myocarditis," making the diagnosis takes some careful medical sleuthing.

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