Difference between myocarditis and a healthy heart

Myocarditis is inflammation of the myocardium - the heart muscle. It’s not related to lifestyle and there are no medical treatments to prevent it.

Most people suffering with myocarditis recover without complications, but in rare cases when inflammation is severe, there can be damage to the heart.

What are the symptoms of myocarditis?

People who have myocarditis usually develop symptoms one to two weeks after the initial viral illness. 

Symptoms of myocarditis include:

  • a stabbing pain and/or tightness in the chest which may spread across the body
  • shortness of breath when lightly exercising or walking
  • difficulty breathing when resting
  • flu like symptoms such as a high temperature, tiredness and fatigue
  • palpitations or an irregular heart rhythm.

What causes myocarditis?

Myocarditis is usually caused by:

  • a viral, bacterial or fungal infection
  • a chest infection
  • an auto immune disease (when a person’s own immune system attacks their body)
  • sometimes the cause is unknown.

What tests will I need for myocarditis?

Tests are not always performed as a diagnosis of the condition might never be made and symptoms may resolve on their own.

However, if symptoms persist you may be sent for: 

Will I need treatment for myocarditis?

In prolonged cases myocarditis might affect your heart muscle and tissue, meaning you could develop heart failure. Treatment involves close monitoring and medication, including anti-inflammatory medicines and, depending on your condition, antibiotics.

If the damage is very severe you could be considered for a heart transplant

Psychological support for myocarditis

Suffering with myocarditis can be emotionally challenging for you and your family. It is important to manage anxiety and stress and there are many outlets of support to help you.

You can use the following ways to get mental support for dealing with your condition:

  • Talk to your GP about being referred for counselling or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
  • Utilise The Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) services across the country.
  • Call us on 0300 330 3311 to speak to one of our nurses on our heart helpline between 9-5, Monday to Friday.
  • Join our online community platform, HealthUnlocked. Members include those who have been affected by the same condition.

Leading the fight against myocarditis

The BHF is the largest independent funder of cardiovascular research in the UK. Some highlights of our heart failure research involve monitoring white blood cells from people with general and long standing myocarditis, and blocking these cells from travelling to the heart.

If successful, this research could reveal a new, non-invasive laboratory test to diagnose myocarditis, and a possible new way to treat it. Read more about our current research project into the diagnosis and treatment of myocarditis.

Our life saving research is powered by your support. Every pound raised, helps make a difference to people's lives. Join our fight for every heartbeat.

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Want to know more?

Order or download our publications:

Heart rhythms booklet

Heart rhythms