Heart & Circulatory Health

Rheumatic Fever and Rheumatic Heart Disease

Written by Dr. Vasantha K S and medically reviewed by iCliniq medical review team.

 
Image: Rheumatic Fever and Rheumatic Heart Disease

Rheumatic fever is a serious inflammatory disease that arises as a complication of partially treated strep throat or scarlet fever. It is caused by group A streptococcus.

Causes

Not all cases of strep throat lead to rheumatic fever. When a strep throat infection or scarlet fever has not been completely treated, the bacteria stay on. They act by confusing the body's immune system to target certain tissues of the body and treat them as foreign agents. This process, in turn, causes inflammation of the heart, skin, joints, and CNS (central nervous system).

Symptoms

  • Fever
  • Joint swelling and pain.
  • Fleeting joint pain.
  • Warmth and redness of joint.
  • Skin rashes.
  • Skin nodules.
  • Tonsil enlargement.
  • Chest pain.
  • Headache.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.

Diagnosis

- History of recent strep throat infection.

- Fever with skin rashes or nodules.

- Examination of joints to look for swelling.

- Blood test to detect strep bacteria.

- Heart monitoring with ECG and echocardiogram.

Risk Factors

  1. History: Recent strep infection.
  2. Age: Children from 5 to 10 years of age.
  3. Environmental factors: Overcrowded areas with poor sanitation.

Complications

  • Carditis.
  • Rheumatic heart disease.
  • Mitral valve regurgitation.
  • Atrial fibrillation.
  • Heart failure.

What Is Rheumatic Heart Disease?

RHD is a long-term damage caused to the valves and tissues of the heart due to rheumatic fever. In severe cases, there is scarring and irreversible damage to the heart. This causes problems with blood flow through the heart valves, which requires surgical correction. The most worrying factor is that it can go undetected for years. If symptoms do pop up, it can vary as feet swelling, chest pain, weakness, and tiredness.

Treatment

  • Penicillin (antibiotic) is given if an active strep infection is still present.
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs to counter the tissue inflammation.
  • Corticosteroids.
  • Aspirin for fever.
  • Anticonvulsant medication.

Prevention

Rheumatic fever can be prevented by treating strep throat and scarlet fever by completing the course of prescribed antibiotics.

When to See a Doctor?

See a doctor if:

- you had a recent throat infection and develop fever soon after,

- you have had rheumatic fever in the past, and you have it again.

For more information consult a valvular heart problems specialist online --> https://www.icliniq.com/ask-a-doctor-online/cardiologist/valvular-heart-problems

Last reviewed at: 07.Sep.2018

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