Many people struggling with addiction suffer from an array of health problems. Among them may be endocarditis, a cardiac disease that typically affects those with heart defects, heart valve damage, or a history of IV drug use. Let’s take a deeper look into endocarditis, the forms it takes, who it affects, and its symptoms and treatment, particularly for those who are considering treatment for substance use disorder.
First of All, What Is Endocarditis?
Endocarditis is a bacterial infection that affects one or all four of the heart’s valves. The primary function of each valve is to facilitate blood flow throughout the body. The presence of the infection hinders and sometimes eradicates the heart’s ability to circulate blood. In some instances, endocarditis may cause bacteria to latch onto cells or other microscopic objects in the bloodstream, creating what doctors call vegetation. Vegetation may grow to cause grave issues throughout the body. In serious cases, a person with endocarditis may pass away due to its complications.
How Do I Know If I or My Loved One Has Endocarditis?
Normally, a person receives an endocarditis diagnosis after a doctor gathers and studies all present symptoms, along with the person’s medical history, and after conducting several tests. Tests for endocarditis may be conducted using:
- Blood samples
- An echocardiogram
- An electrocardiogram (ECG)
- A chest X-ray
- A computerized tomography (CT) scan or an MRI
Upon completing one or all of these examinations, doctors must search for symptoms that the disease commonly causes. Commonly documented symptoms may include but are not limited to the following:
- Fever, chills, or night sweats
- Fatigue or aching muscles and joints
- Difficulty breathing while exercising and/or presence of a cough
- Shortness of breath while lying down
- Nausea, vomiting, headaches
- Changes in skin coloration or texture
Once established that the individual suffers from bacterial endocarditis, the doctor will determine whether they have the acute or subacute form, each of which move at different speeds and produce different outcomes.
What Are the Differences Between Acute and Subacute Endocarditis?
Oftentimes, patients with abnormally shaped heart valves (valves either narrow or leaky) receive a subacute diagnosis. In most cases, the symptoms associated with this type are non-specific. It may take some time, a matter of weeks or months, for a doctor to detect the subacute form as the culprit of their patient’s heart problem. Most people who suffer from substance abuse do not develop this type, although it is possible to receive the diagnosis while addicted to a substance.
Acute endocarditis, on the other hand, is a much more serious form of the disease and results from staphylococcus bacteria entering the bloodstream. Unlike the subacute form, individuals who regularly use intravenous (IV) substances put themselves at high risk of contracting this type.
The points on the body where a needle breaks skin may create small puncture wounds that allow deadly bacteria to find its way into the blood. Likewise, the use of unhygienic drug paraphernalia increases the probability that such bacteria will enter the body. Left undiagnosed and untreated, acute endocarditis may kill a person in less than two months.
Can Acute Endocarditis Be Treated?
How can I or my loved one recover from it while also recovering from substance abuse?
The good news is that bacteria, not an abnormality of the heart itself, often causes acute endocarditis, and an effective, intravenous antibiotic treatment exists. Usually, this treatment lasts four to six weeks and is administered by a doctor in a hospital unless the doctor determines that at-home treatment will be safe and effective. Some cases of acute endocarditis require surgery.
Someone who has recently entered addiction treatment and who does not require surgery for their acute endocarditis may be able to receive later rounds of the antibiotic treatment at the treatment center, depending on the doctor’s recommendations.
How Can I Prevent Endocarditis?
In cases unrelated to the presence of heart abnormalities, three actions can help prevent the onset of acute endocarditis:
- Fast treatment of staph infections
- Excellent mouth and dental hygiene
- Complete avoidance of IV drugs
How Can I Defeat Both Addiction and Endocarditis?
If you are currently being treated for endocarditis and are also seeking treatment for addiction, we can help. Our residential treatment program at Great Oaks Recovery Center prioritizes safety and wellness. We provide our clients with a thorough medical exam and tailored medical care for the exact complications that acute or subacute endocarditis may cause during treatment. Give us a call today to ask about our program and find out how we can work with your unique situation.