Country music crooner Carly Pearce is battling pericarditis — a women’s cardiology specialist explains the condition

Understanding pericarditis and how it can impact overall health specifically in women.

Country music singer and Kentucky native Carly Pearce, shared with fans through social media that she was diagnosed with pericarditis, a condition impacting her heart. While she shared that she expects to make a full recovery, she wanted to be open about her diagnosis to educate others as well as encourage everyone to advocate for their own health. At just 34, the singer originally from Taylor Mill, Kentucky, didn’t expect to find herself with this diagnosis.

Pericarditis is inflammation of the sac-like structure around the heart. The fluid in the sac keeps the heart muscle lubricated and serves as a protective lining. Pericarditis is when an infection settles into that fluid in the sac.

“Pericarditis is relatively rare,” said Li Zhou, M.D., Ph.D., medical director of the Norton Heart & Vascular Institute Women’s Heart Program. “For the most part it is short term, meaning if treated properly, it goes away; however, in some cases it can become recurring, which impacts about 28 people out of every 100,000.”

The most common symptoms of pericarditis is sharp chest pain that gets worse with breathing deeply, lying flat or coughing. Some patients also may experience a dull ache that spreads to the left shoulder or into their neck, mimicking the signs of a heart attack and sending them to the emergency room.

Women’s Heart Program

Heart disease is the number one killer of women. It kills more women than cancer. 1 out 5 women die from heart disease. 

“Pericarditis accounts for about 5% of nonischemic ER visits for chest pain meaning they are having pain in their chest but when diagnosed it is not a heart attack,” Dr. Zhou said. “And in these cases, the patient did the right thing. It is always better to be safe than sorry, and going to the emergency department for unexplained chest pain is always the best thing to do.”

“Pericarditis typically doesn’t just develop on its own,” said Lauren R. Albers, M.D., women’s cardiovascular disease specialist with the Norton Heart & Vascular Institute Women’s Heart Program. “Pericarditis can arise as a result of an acute illness, such as virus like the flu; after a flare-up of an autoimmune disease, such as lupus; or can come about as a result of taking certain medications, for example anti-seizure medications, some anticoagulants/blood thinners or hydralazine, a well-known blood pressure medication.”

Treatment plans can vary

The most common treatment includes high doses of anti-inflammatory medications, which are tapered over several weeks, along with colchicine, a heart medication that supports recovery.

“Abstaining from sports or robust exercise in the early stages of recovery is recommended,” Dr. Albers said. “Elevating the heart rate may exacerbate the inflammation and cause discomfort in the chest, as well as dangerous arrhythmias.”

Treatment can take several weeks, up to three  months, because if not treated fully there is a 30% risk of recurrence in the first 18 months after diagnosis. Once treatment begins and the pain subsides, most patients can return to normal activity, including moderate exercise, while monitoring how they feel.

Schedule an Appointment

Select an appointment date and time from available spots listed below.