What is Infective Endocarditis?

What is Infective Endocarditis (IE)?

Infective endocarditis is a very serious sickness that can be life-threatening
. It happens when bacteria or fungi get into the bloodstream and cause an infection on one or more of the heart’s four valves. It is becoming a big cause of death for people who inject substances.

How Infective Endocarditis (IE) Can Happen

  • Bacteria or fungi that cause IE live on the body and in the environment

  • Injecting substances can cause these bacteria and fungi into the bloodstream

  • The bacteria then stick to the heart valves and make the valves not work right

  • This can cause the bacteria to spread to other parts of the body such as brain, lungs, kidney, spleen, or bones.

  • This can cause strokes, infections in other parts of the body, organ failure, and pain.

  • IE can also be caused by untreated abscesses, skin infections, or teeth infections.

If you have infective endocarditis, you need to go to the hospital right away. Doctors can give you medications such as antibiotics, and in some cases you may need surgery to help get better. If a person does not get treated they could get very sick and even die. There is no guarantee that the endocarditis can be cured, and treatment may require a long hospital stay, which can impact housing, job, and childcare needs.

People who inject substances, especially those who inject more than once a day are at the highest risk for infective endocarditis.

Some unsafe injection practices like reusing needles, not cleaning the skin before injection, licking the needle or not keeping the injection site clean can increase the chances of getting this sickness. It’s important to be safe and clean when injecting to protect yourself from this sickness.

Watch the video to learn more about injection drug use-related endocarditis.