Viral myocarditis is a disorder that targets and inflames the heart causing serious damage to the organ. While the incidence of the disease is unknown, thousands of people are diagnosed with the illness annually. Many people who contract the viral ailment are otherwise healthy and may not initially show any symptoms. These individuals may fully recover and never realize that they had the condition. In other cases, the prognosis is less favorable and may lead to chronic heart failure. The disease causes several cases of sudden death each year.
Myocarditis is the term used to describe the inflammation affecting the myocardium, or middle layer of the heart wall. The inflammation affects the heart’s muscle cells and the conduction of electrical impulses. The disease can eventually compromise the heart’s ability to pump blood and beat regularly. As the pumping action of your heart weakens, the organ cannot supply the body with sufficient blood, oxygen and nutrients. Clots can form in your heart, which can cause a stroke or a heart attack.
The viral illness is more likely to affect men than women. Although it is diagnosed in people of all ages, it is more prevalent in younger individuals. Symptoms of myocarditis include fatigue, chest pain, abnormal heart rhythm and shortness of breath as well as possible heart failure. Viral myocarditis is usually diagnosed by a series of blood and imaging tests. These can include an electrocardiogram, chest x-rays, an echocardiogram and an MRI. A biopsy may be required to verify the diagnosis.
The illness is usually treated with heart medications, a low-sodium diet and rest. Steroids may be prescribed to alleviate the inflammation. A pacemaker may be inserted to regulate an irregular heart rhythm. No lifestyle changes or medical treatments have been shown to prevent viral myocarditis. While many people fully recover without any negative long-term effects, others experience chronic symptoms that require ongoing medical treatment. Persistent or recurring heart inflammation can enlarge and impair this hardworking organ. There is no way to prevent the condition from reoccurring. Approximately 45 percent of heart transplants in the U.S. are performed to manage myocarditis and associated complications like idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy and pericarditis, which is the inflammation of the pericardium, or sac covering the heart.
If complications like dilated cardiomyopathy develop because of viral myocarditis, you may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. Chronic cardiomyopathy is listed in the Social Security Blue Book under congestive heart failure. To qualify for SSDI, your medical records must confirm that you have been diagnosed with severe, ongoing heart failure that is not responding to medications. The records should include the results of any physical exams, lab and imaging tests and hospital stays. In addition to an evaluation showing fluid retention in the heart, your medical records must document a systolic or diastolic failure, which confirms that the heart lacks pumping strength or does not fill properly.
You must also fail the exercise tolerance test. If your condition prevents the use of this diagnostic examination, you must demonstrate serious limitations in the ability to perform daily living activities. An individual with viral myocarditis may also qualify if there are three episodes of heart failure requiring emergency treatment or hospitalization in the past 12 months. Based on your evaluations, the SSA will determine whether you can perform some type of gainful work. This residual functional capacity may help you obtain partial benefits.