If you are concerned about your heart health you may have wondered, "How common is staph on a heart valve?" This infection and inflammation of the heart valves is called endocarditis. It's pretty rare, with only 1 to 4 per 100,000 people being affected annually. This rounds out to about 19,000 people in the U.S., with 2000 cases being fatal. Not all endocarditis is caused by a staph infection. Acute endocarditis is the type generally caused by staphylococcus, while subacute endocarditis is usually caused by a form of streptococci. Acute endocarditis, usually caused by staph on the valve, can be much more fatal. Some endocarditis is actually caused by a fungus, which is the hardest to cure.
Though men are more at risk than women, people with healthy hearts almost never develop staph on a heart valve or any form of endocarditis. When there is staph on a heart valve, the affected person has had staphylococci bacteria, which normally live on body surfaces then enters the body. This can happen with any injury that causes a break in the skin, but is often associated with an invasive dental or medical procedure, or a skin prick (especially by intravenous drug users).
Some people are more at risk for staph on a heart valve than others. These groups include people who:
- Have an artificial heart valve.
- Have a history of previous endocarditis.
- Have had previous damage to the heart valves.
- Have a congenital heart defect.
- Have hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (a condition where the heart muscle becomes thick).
- Have had a heart transplant and develop a heart valve abnormality.
When these conditions are present, known prevention is often possible. Means of preventing staph on a heart valve can be as simple as taking an antibiotic or using an antibacterial mouth rinse before having dental or medical procedures. When the problem involves infected drug paraphernalia, the solution is not as simple. While endocarditis is not something most people need to worry about, it's important to know if you are at risk. That way, you can take the proper precautions to avoid getting staph on a heart valve or any other form of endocarditis.