Mediastinitis is a condition of the respiratory tract, characterized by inflammation of the mediastinum. In turn, the mediastinal cavity is located in the region of the thorax (chest) between the lungs and contains different organs of our body. A mediastinitis can be acute or chronic, and below we explain its main causes and symptoms. Keep reading!
What is mediastinitis and what are its causes?
As we have been saying, this condition consists of inflammation and swelling of the mediastinum. This area is responsible for containing the heart, the thyroid and parathyroid glands, the thymus, part of the esophagus, and some lymph nodes.
Usually, mediastinitis occurs as a result of infection, mainly due to a tear or rupture of the esophagus. Although it can also appear after performing chest surgery.
Many times, a ruptured esophagus occurs during a medical procedure, mainly an upper endoscopy. But it can also derive from trauma to the thoracic region, or from constant or forced vomiting.
In addition, there are other less common causes of mediastinitis, such as:
- Histoplasmosis (a type of fungal infection).
- Sarcoidosis (inflammation of the lymph nodes, lungs, skin, liver, or other tissues).
- Exposure to radiation (mainly in the thoracic area).
- Inhalation of anthrax.
Types of mediastinitis
- Acute mediastinitis: it manifests itself suddenly (that is, it happens “suddenly”).
- Chronic mediastinitis– Develops slowly as a result of an improperly treated infection (which takes a long time to heal) or long-term irritation. This type of mediastinitis tends to get worse over time and early diagnosis is key to the patient’s quality of life.
Symptoms of mediastinitis
General symptoms associated with both types of mediastinitis include:
- Pain in the thoracic area
- Shaking chills
- General discomfort or weakness
- Breathing difficulties or respiratory failure
People who develop this inflammatory process after surgery may also have pus in the wound, as well as tenderness or instability in the chest wall.
Diagnosis and treatment of mediastinitis
When presenting any of the aforementioned symptoms, seeking medical attention is essential. To confirm the diagnosis, a CT scan, X-ray, or MRI of the chest is usually ordered.
With the confirmation of the diagnosis, The treatment will depend fundamentally on the cause of the mediastinitis. Since there is an underlying infection in most cases, patients are often given antibiotics. It should be remembered that self-medication is dangerous and any medication must be prescribed by a specialist doctor
Is it possible to prevent mediastinitis?
The only possible prevention for mediastinitis is to avoid exposure to your risk factors. Among them are diseases of the esophagus, gastrointestinal disorders (especially in the upper tract) and diabetes mellitus. It is also important to avoid the use of antibiotics without a prescription and only undergo an endoscopy when it is really necessary.
A complete and balanced nutrition, as well as the practice of physical exercises can help prevent overweight and obesity, which can leave us more prone to numerous diseases, as well as strengthen the immune system.