Endocarditis is a rare but serious condition caused by infection of the heart lining, and heart valves.

The heart is made up of four chambers and four valves which are lined with a membrane called the endocardium.  Endocarditis is caused by an infection of the endocardium, usually with bacteria.  In most cases, these organisms are streptococci or staphylococci bacteria.  However, in rare cases fungi or other infectious micro-organisms can cause the condition.

Endocarditis causes vegetation’s (clumps of bacteria and cells) to form on the heart valves, making it more difficult for the heart to function properly.  It can also cause infection to spread to other parts of the body, such as the kidneys, lungs and brain.  In some cases, endocarditis also causes abscesses (collections of infected fluid) to develop in the heart muscle.

The bacteria and fungi that cause endocarditis usually enter the body through everyday activities, such as brushing your teeth or eating food.  However, in some cases the infection is the result of a dental or medical procedure.

Endocarditis is uncommon in people with a healthy heart.  You are more at risk of developing endocarditis if you have a heart defect, such an abnormal heart valve or damaged heart tissue.  Men are twice as likely to be affected by endocarditis as women.  Endocarditis can occur at any age, but is more common in people aged 50 years and over.

With the appropriate treatment and care, most people with endocarditis recover.

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