Heart Disorder Terminology

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  • 0:00 The Heart
  • 0:25 Inflammation of The Heart
  • 2:45 Heart Valve Disorders
  • 4:30 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Betsy Chesnutt

Betsy teaches college physics, biology, and engineering and has a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering

Infections and heart valve disorders commonly affect the heart, leading to serious illness, disability, and even death. In this lesson, learn about what causes these disorders and how they are treated.

The Heart

Hello, I'm Henry the Human Heart! Throughout your life, I beat about 60-100 times every minute to keep blood pumping throughout your body. Most of the time, I do a great job and you probably rarely even think about what I'm doing, but sometimes, there are problems that limit my ability to function normally. Let's take a few minutes to talk about some of the disorders that might affect a heart like me.

Inflammation of the Heart

One of the most serious problems a heart like me can face is infection by microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

Infection causes inflammation in and around the heart, a condition known as carditis. Carditis can be broken down into three categories depending on which part of the heart is affected. Pericarditis is inflammation of the sac surrounding the heart, the pericardium. When the pericardium is inflamed, it swells and rubs against the heart, causing pain that can feel similar to a heart attack. Pericarditis can be caused by viral infections like HIV, bacterial infections like tuberculosis, or fungal infections like histoplasmosis.

In addition to the pericardium, the heart itself can become inflamed. Inflammation of cardiac muscle tissue is called myocarditis. Myocarditis is commonly caused by infections, but can also be caused by autoimmune disorders, allergic reactions, and exposure to radiation. No matter the cause, when you have myocarditis, cardiac muscle cells become damaged causing your heart muscle to swell and not function normally.

Myocarditis is often a mild illness that goes away without treatment. In fact, it's very possible that you have had an episode of myocarditis at some point in your life without even knowing it. However, it can also be a serious illness that can cause heart attacks, heart failure, and even death.

If you have inflammation of the inner lining of the heart, the endocardium, this is a condition called endocarditis. Although endocarditis can affect any part of the heart lining, it is usually seen around the heart valves. Inflammation of the heart valves is also known as valvulitis. Immune system cells have a hard time reaching the heart valves, so if bacteria are present in the blood, they can stick to the valves and grow there, causing endocarditis. If your heart valves are normal and undamaged, it is highly unlikely that bacteria will stick to them, but if your valves are damaged due to congenital defects or diseases, like rheumatic fever, endocarditis becomes much more likely.

Heart Valve Disorders

Other common problems that affect hearts like me are disorders of the heart valves. Your heart contains four chambers, two atria and two ventricles, and there are valves separating the atria from the ventricles. Normally, blood only flows one way through the heart, and these valves make sure that blood does not flow backwards from the ventricles into the atria. There are also valves separating the ventricles from the pulmonary artery and aorta that also prevent blood from flowing back into the heart. If one or more of the heart valves does not close properly and allows blood to flow backwards, this is known as valvular prolapse.

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