Bacterial Endocarditis and IV Drug Use
Bacterial Endocarditis is Rare, But it Happens
Bacterial endocarditis is an infection that is normally rare but it occurs all too often in people who use an IV drug. It is caused by bacteria in the lining of the heart or one of its four valves. In addition, the infection causes swelling, which means the heart has to work harder to push blood through the body. The resultant circulation problems can be severe enough to lead to death.
This type of infection is more common in men than in women. It is also quite rare in people without a personal or family history of heart problems. Nonetheless, when bacterial endocarditis symptoms do occur they can come on quite suddenly and severely. This is known as acute bacterial endocarditis; there are also cases with milder symptoms and a more gradual onset, called subacute bacterial endocarditis.
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Bacterial Endocarditis Symptoms
Whether the disease is acute or subacute, any of the following symptoms may occur:
- Night sweats
- Aching muscles
- Shortness of breath
- Blood in the urine
- Swelling of legs, feet or abdomen
- Weight gain
In addition, some patients experience unusual skin changes, for instance:
- Painful red or purple bumps on the fingers and toes
- Painless, small flat red spots on the skin, under fingernails, on the whites of the eyes, and inside the mouth
Causes of Bacterial Endocarditis
Certain kinds of bacteria naturally live on and in the body. They are everywhere — in the mouth, respiratory system, skin, digestive tract, and so forth. What causes bacterial endocarditis is not necessarily a specific type of bacteria, but rather that bacteria can end up in the bloodstream where they don’t belong. This can happen after certain medical or dental procedures in which the skin or other tissue is damaged. Once bacteria are in the bloodstream they can settle on the heart’s valves or lining and begin to multiply.
Not all kinds of bacteria can cause this type of infection. Most cases result from one of two kinds of bacteria: staphylococci (the cause of staph infections) and streptococci (responsible for strep throat). However, if you already have heart problems then you are at an increased risk for this bacteria to take hold of your heart and grow. But, as noted above, both acute bacterial endocarditis and subacute bacterial endocarditis are fairly rare conditions.
Are you suffering from bacterial endocarditis? Do not wait. Call us today. We will be able to provide you with the care that you need. Our team of professionals will make sure that you are taken care of, and receive the best care. Above all, we want to see you get better. Let us help start you on your journey to a happier and healthier life. Call us today.
People Most at Risk For Bacterial Endocarditis
There are many factors that can increase the chances of getting bacterial endocarditis, for example:
- Intravenous or IV drug use (about which more later)
- Hemodialysis for kidney failure (a medical procedure that removes fluid and waste product from the blood to correct any imbalances)
- Heart valve disease, like a leaking or narrowed valve
- Rheumatic heart disease caused by strep bacteria
- Artificial heart valve replacement
- Congenital heart disease present at birth
- Previous diagnosis of endocarditis
- Poor dental hygiene
- Artificial heart valves or valve repair
- A heart transplant with a leaky heart valve
- Weak immune system
Diagnosing Bacterial Endocarditis
A healthcare provider will ask you about your symptoms and health history, then conduct a physical exam. Certain tests may also be given:
- Echocardiogram to look at the heart valves and blood flow inside the heart
- Transesophageal echocardiogram for a more detailed view of the heart
- Blood tests and cultures to check for bacteria and signs of inflammation
- Electrocardiography or an ECG to analyze the rhythm of the heart
- Chest X-ray to examine the lungs
- Cardiac CT, if more information is needed about your heart
- Urine tests to check for kidney damage
- MRI of the brain to check for damage
Treatment Plans For Bacterial Endocarditis
Most treatment plans for bacterial endocarditis involve taking antibiotics for several weeks. In the beginning, you will be given antibiotics through an IV. However, this may require you to stay at the hospital for the first week of treatment. After the first week, it is possible for you to have IV antibiotics at home with home-based care. Later on, you will be able to take antibiotics orally. The type of antibiotics will depend on the type of bacteria identified in the bloodstream. Also, if you have an artificial heart valve. Your healthcare team will most likely include a cardiologist, a pharmacist, and an infectious disease doctor. Because all of them will have input on the best course of treatment. In addition, cases where the heart damage is serious, a heart surgeon will also weigh in and may recommend surgery to repair or replace damaged valves.
Do you need more information about treatment plans for bacterial endocarditis? Call us today. We will be able to give you more information, as well as provide you with the care that you need in order to battle your addiction. We will work with you to make sure you get on the path that is best suited for you and your needs. Call today and we can start your sobriety journey as soon as possible.
Possible Complications of Bacterial Endocarditis
The infection causes clumps of bacteria and other cells to form on the valves of the heart. These clumps can break off and travel through the bloodstream, sometimes causing circulation blockages just as a blood clot would. They can also spread the infection to other organs. For example, possible complications of bacterial endocarditis include:
- Brain abscesses – for instance, swollen areas in the brain containing an accumulation of pus
- Meningitis – this can be inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord
- A blood clot in the lung – for example, also known as a pulmonary embolism
- Kidney infection and damage
- Spleen enlargement and damage
- Intractable infection – for instance, does not respond to treatment
Preventing Bacterial Endocarditis
Not all cases are preventable, but you can decrease some of the risks. Good dental hygiene is a start. You may also be able to take antibiotics prophylactically before some medical and dental procedures, especially if you have an artificial heart valve or a valve repaired with artificial material. But the risk is greatest for IV drug users, and while such drug use is risky by nature, a little bit of knowledge and a few supplies can go a long way in managing the risks.
Are you worried about someone you love that has exposure to bacterial endocarditis? Call us today. We will be able to assist you in getting the help that you need to create a healthier lifestyle. Never feel embarrassed or judged when talking to one of our representatives. We offer a no-judgment policy and only want to help those seeking out support. Call today and we will work on starting your journey to recovery today.
IV Drug Use
While heroin may be the most infamous, many drugs come in injectable forms. They include:
- Some prescription medications
As the latter usually come in pill form, users crush them into a powder and mix them with water for injection. Sometimes they inject into the skin, muscle, or soft tissue, but the preferred method is directly into a vein. Intravenous or IV drug use is the most popular method of using injectable drugs and comes with a variety of risks over other methods.
Long Term Health Risks of IV Drug Use
IV Drug abuse often introduces bacteria into the bloodstream, so it should be clear how it is linked to bacterial endocarditis. It increases the risk of many other infectious diseases as well, including HIV and several strains of hepatitis. Infection most often occurs if the needle itself is dirty, which is why needle exchanges and other forms of harm reduction are so important. However, even a clean needle used inexpertly can push bacteria from the skin into the bloodstream.
IV drug users are also at risk for skin infections, and they may not really know what is in the drug they are using. One study reported in the British Journal for Dermatology discovered that in confiscated injected drugs, 89 percent were contaminated with pathogens including 68 percent of the heroin tested.
Chronic IV drug use also can cause vascular scarring, often referred to as “track marks.” Other potential health risks that come with using IV drugs for a prolonged amount of time include:
- Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI)
- Musculoskeletal Infections
And finally, these risks also include bacterial endocarditis. This is a natural consequence of the bacteria that IV injection introduces into the bloodstream. Are you worried about a loved one? Are you yourself dealing with addiction? In short, no matter how or why we are here to help you. Help you fight your addiction. Also, help you start your journey to a healthier and better life. Call today and we can work together on starting this journey.