The root cause of a sharp, stabbing chest pain: pericarditis is not something to be taken lightly. Pericarditis is a rare but harmful condition. It occurs when the pericardium, a protective covering around your heart, is inflamed. This disorder can range in severity from acute to incessant. The most common symptom is a sharp and piercing chest pain on the left side of your chest. This pain can also be dull, achy or pressure-like instead. It usually intensifies upon lying down, coughing, or inhaling deeply. Furthermore, pericarditis can be accompanied with some or all of the following symptoms1:

  • Sharp pain on the left side of the chest
  • Shortness of breath when reclining
  • Heart palpitations
  • Low grade fever
  • Overall sense of weakness, fatigue, or sickness
  • Cough
  • Abdominal or leg swelling

Clearly these symptoms make this condition a rather difficult one to deal with. If you have experienced a heart attack or have underwent heart surgery, pericarditis can be a likely aftermath. Other health disorders, trauma, systematic inflammatory disorders, and certain medications can all contribute to causing pericarditis as well. Pericarditis can range from a mild illness that gets better on its own, to a severely damaging disease that may result in heart failure2. A stethoscope can reveal something called a pericardial rub, which is the audible friction of the heart. A formal diagnosis usually requires exams and tests which seek to check the heart and the tissue layer around it.

Depending on the nature of your condition, specific treatments can be used to reduce inflammation and minimize the pain. While this condition may not be threatening most of the time, it can be dangerous if not treated. It is best to seek immediate medical care if you or a loved one experience any of the related symptoms.

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1“Pericarditis.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 6 Mar. 2018, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pericarditis/symptoms-causes/syc-20352510.

2“Pericarditis: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000182.htm.