Vivien Williams: He was 26 years old and too sick to work for months. The young man you are about to meet suffered from a disease called pericarditis. It's a heart condition the doctors at Mayo Clinic say can be difficult to diagnose, often heard to treat and very challenging for many of the people who suffer from it. The key to recovery is getting the right treatment and getting it quickly.

Attorney David Geller lost months of his life because of a diesease called pericarditis.

David Geller: I really spent you know, maybe a year sitting in my house just being sick.

Vivien Williams: His first symptoms mimic those of a heart attack.

David Geller: Horrible pain in my neck and my chest.

Vivien Williams: But tests showed that the lining of his heart, called the pericardium, was inflamed. The inflammation often caused by a common virus such as a cold or the flu, can be debilitating, but it's usually not lethal. In fact, most cases resolve with prescription anti-inflammatory medication. But the treatment David got at first, steroids, made his symptoms much worse.

David Geller: I just kept getting sicker.

Vivien Williams: Dr. Farouk Mookadam says this situation is not uncommon.

Farouk Mookadam, M.D.: The average patient we see with this condition is about 18 months after the initial consult.

Vivien Williams: Pericarditis usually strikes people under age 50 and it's not very common so some doctors aren't used to dealing with it. And making a diagnosis may require a battery of tests, blood tests, x-rays, ECGs, CAT scans, MRIs and echocardiograms.

Farouk Mookadam, M.D.: Difficult for the patient. Difficult to diagnose. Difficult to treat.

Vivien Williams: Dr. Mookadam got David on the right treatment plan, but by that time is pericardium was damaged. He had surgery to remove it and now it he is working to let others know about this disease so they won't suffer like he did.

Surgery to remove the pericardium is a big operation, open heart surgery, but your heart does not need that lining to function normally. So in severe cases, surgery may be the best option and David says after his operation, he feels better than he has in a long time.

For Medical Edge, I'm Vivien Williams.

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May 07, 2024