Endocarditis is an inflammation of the valves and/or smooth tissue (endocardium) lining in the heart.
Many of the wide range of organisms which cause endocarditis in injecting drug users can be present on the skin or in the mouths of injectors, which is a good reason for making the injecting process as hygienic as possible. If untreated, endocarditis prevents the heart valves operating properly and leads to heart failure.
Several factors have been identified as possible predisposing factors for the development of endocarditis in injecting drug users:
A pre-existing heart condition
Poor hygiene when injecting
Failure to wash hands prior to injecting
Failure to clean the injecting site before injecting
Licking or blowing on the needle tip
Licking the injection site
Injecting crushed tablets or other particulate matter
Septicaemia is a generalised bacterial infection of the blood which may be caused by a variety of organisms. Bacteria commonly responsible are Staphylococcus aureus and E. coli.
A person with septicaemia may have the following symptoms:
Feeling generally unwell or very ill
They may also:
Go into a state of circulatory shock.
If a person is suspected of having septicaemia, they should be seen by a doctor urgently. The best advice is to call an ambulance. They will need to be given intravenous antibiotics to control the infection.
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