Content Reviewers:Kelly Johnson, MS
Pericarditis is considered recurrent when an episode occurs at least four to six weeks after the end of a previous episode.
Each episode may last days to weeks and be followed by a period of time with no symptoms between episodes.
The main symptom of a pericarditis episode is a sharp chest pain that increases when taking deep breaths and lying down.
Pain may decrease when bending forward and may spread to the neck, upper back, or shoulders.
Anything that can cause pericarditis can also cause recurrent pericarditis. Most often this includes autoimmune diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus or rheumatoid arthritis, but may also be caused by metabolic disorders such as kidney failure, and rare inflammatory diseases like familial Mediterranean fever.
Recurrent pericarditis can also be caused by pericardial infections from viruses, drugs that target the pericardium, cancer, heart attacks and cardiac surgery.
This inflammation may expand to surround the lungs leading to chest pain and difficulty breathing. The inflammation can also cause blood vessels around the heart to become leaky, allowing fluid to pool in the space between the heart and the pericardium.
If inflammation is prolonged, scar tissue may begin to form around the pericardium. This scar tissue can impair heart contraction and decrease elasticity of the pericardium.
This results in veins in the neck becoming visibly larger. It also leads to fluid build-up in the lungs and feet.