Coping With Lupus Chest Pain
Many people with lupus often experience chest pain, which is known as myocarditis. This can be very scary for lupus patients (knowing we are at an increased risk for having a heart attack or stroke), but once you know how to identify it, you can feel a little bit more empowered.
Myocarditis is the inflammation of the muscle tissue of your heart, which can cause pain and rapid heart beat. The symptoms can be not only mistaken for a heart attack, but also for a blood clot that has moved to the lungs (pulmonary embolism).
The first time many people experience it they rush to the hospital fearing the worst.
Dealing With Lupus Chest Pain
Back in 2008, when I was living on my own, I was taken to the hospital after experiencing the pain and was told I might have a blood clot in my lungs. When I asked if I would die, I was told it was a distinct possibility.
This kind of experience only ups your lupus anxiety and makes this issue even harder to deal with. But once your doctor is able to determine you are not in severe danger, you can figure out where to go from there.
Although inflammation of the heart sounds pretty scary, it surprisingly isn’t anything to worry about. Just like any other part of your body becomes inflamed with lupus flares, your heart can as well.
If you are experiencing chest pain, it is important to communicate this to your doctor so you can have the proper testing done. In some lupus patients, heart issues do occur, so it important that if you are experiencing pain, your doctor can rule out all other health issues before diagnosing you with myocarditis.
What to Do When Experiencing Chest Pain
Often times, these episodes of chest pain come on suddenly and without warning, which can make you think you are having a heart attack. However, if your doctor has previously cleared you and you know you are susceptible to it, this issue can sometimes be solved by taking NSAIDs, or over-the-counter anti-inflammatories.
If the issue becomes really bad, you may take prescription NSAIDs, or if it is in conjunction with a flare, steroids may be in order.
It is important that you speak to your doctor about your episodes and keep them updated as to the pattern of when they occur and for how long. Myocarditis can also be a result of a viral or bacterial infection, so it is important that your doctor stays on top of what exactly is causing the issue.
Chest Pain and Pericarditis
Lupus patients can also suffer from chest pain known as pericarditis, which is the inflammation of the sac that surrounds your heart. Like myocarditis, it can be extremely scary and painful, but typically does not present an immediate threat.
Pericarditis, however, can have a lasting effect if the inflammation cannot be kept under control. This can make it difficult for the heart to pump blood if the sac is constantly inflamed, leading to further issues with the heart itself.
While pericarditis and myocarditis are rarely life threatening, unless they cannot be controlled long-term, there are times when chest pain can be a problem.
If you regularly experience pericarditis or myocarditis and suddenly experience pain that feels more intense or different, it is advised that you visit the local emergency room immediately. This can be due to a number of things, including a heart attack, blood clot or coronary artery disease.
Other Lupus Heart Issues
People with lupus can be susceptible to endocarditis, which involves the inflammation of the heart valve, which will eventually cause it to thicken.
The inflammation can also cause lesions in the heart that can become infected, creating a life-threatening problem, or that can also break off. If a lesion travels to the brain, it can cause a blood clot, which is also potentially life threatening.
Additionally, those with lupus often have coronary artery disease, particularly as a result of steroid use. This risk increases if you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol from prolonged use of steroids.
With coronary artery disease, plaque can build up in the blood vessels, which will cause the blood flow in your heart and arteries to restrict. This, in turn, can create pain known as angina.
However, over time, plaque can break off which can put you at risk for a heart attack.
Anytime you, as a lupus patient, experience severe chest pain of unknown origin, it is extremely important that you speak to your doctor or go to the emergency room. Although many times it is nothing serious, you can still find yourself becoming incredibly ill if you don’t take precautions and take your health seriously.