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Why Does Fluid Builds Up Around The Heart?

Oct 30, 2022 | Blog

Anatomically, a human heart has a pericardium layer surrounding the heart to protect it. Sometimes, fluid may leak around the heart, known as pericardial effusion. You must understand that under normal conditions, the heart and pericardium have about 2 to 3 tbs of fluid to eliminate friction during the beating.

However, under certain circumstances, the amount increases, causing various troubles.

Symptoms of Having Fluid Around The Heart

Pericardial effusion or water surrounding the heart may not show prominent symptoms. But you can keep track of these changes happening.

  • Dyspnea – a condition that characterizes by shortness of breath or difficulty in breathing.
  • Irritation in breathing while lying down
  • Chest pain usually pains under the left breast.
  • Feeling of fullness in the lung area.
  • Lightheadedness
  • Fainting
  • Abdominal or leg swelling.
  • Palpitation
  • Clammy cold skin

Why Does Fluid Buildup Around The Heart?

It is a consequence of inflammation of the pericardium (the layer which surrounds the heart for frictionless beating) after an illness or even an injury.

In some instances, heavy effusions may be a result of certain cancers. Other than that, pericardial fluid block or blood collection within it can also cause this condition.

Unfortunately, at times the causes cannot be determined, then it’s categorized as idiopathic pericarditis.

Other reasons for fluid to build up around the lungs and heart include:

  • Inflammation due to autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.
  • Pericardium or heart cancer.
  • Metastasizing heart, lung, breast cancer or Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
  • Sometimes receiving radiation therapy for cancer, if it is around the heart, can cause fluid accumulation around the heart.
  • Chest area trauma
  • Pericardium inflammation after a heart attack or heart surgery.
  • Hypothyroidism a condition in which the thyroid is underactive
  • Medicinal side effects
  • Toxin response
  • Infections from Viruses, bacteria, fungi or parasites
  • Uremia due to kidney failure.

How to Treat Fluid Around the Heart?

The treatment plan is solely on the severity and causes behind it. Some non-severe ones that show no symptoms as such, e.g., kidney failure, require no special treatment.

However, for pericardial effusion because of sac inflammation, effusion or water surrounding the heart is treated by getting rid of inflammation.

These drugs are best to treat inflammatory conditions:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Aleve or Indocin.
  • Corticosteroids like prednisone.
  • Colchicine.

In case of a severe infection or heart dysfunction, also known as cardiac tamponade exists, one should get the extra fluid on the heart drained off immediately.

There are 2 methods of draining:

  • Pericardiocentesis: A procedure in which the doctor pierces a needle through the chest area in the pericardial effusion. Then a catheter suctions the water from the pericardium out.
  • Pericardiectomy. In this process, the surgeon cuts through the chest, go in and incises away a portion of the pericardium to drain the fluid out from the heart.

Final Words

You can get on board with the doctors from Pulmonary Medical Consultants in case you have a history of heart issues and are feeling issues with breathing or overall wellness.


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