Infective endocarditis (IE) is an infection of the inner surface of the heart. It is common for IE to develop on the heart valves. IE can be a life-threatening infection. It can also cause lasting damage to the heart. This can lead to health problems later on, such as
Clumps of bacteria can also form in the heart with IE. These clumps can break off and travel through the blood to other areas of the body. It may block blood flow to important organs such as the brain, kidneys, or lungs.
IE may be caused by:
The germs may be part of the normal environment in your mouth or on your skin. However, a cut in the mouth or skin will allow the germs to enter the blood. When the germs reach the heart, they stick to a surface. There, they can grow and damage nearby tissue. Certain conditions can make it easier for germs to stick in the heart:
Scarred or faulty heart valves
Heart conditions that slow blood flow or allow blood to pool
Weak immune system
The risk of IE is higher with:
Heart valve disease—scarring can happen from rheumatic fever
or other health problems
Antibiotic prophylaxis prior to dental procedures. American Dental Association website. Available at: https://www.ada.org/en/member-center/oral-health-topics/antibiotic-prophylaxis. Updated August 5, 2019. Accessed January 7, 2019.
Infective endocarditis. American Heart Association website. Available at: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/infective-endocarditis. Accessed September 6, 2019.
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