Rheumatic heart disease – A complication of rheumatic fever

  • By Suman Singh

Symptoms of rheumatic fever :
It takes about two weeks for the symptoms of rheumatic fever to appear if a strep (streptococcal) throat infection has not been treated with antibiotics. Children who have repeated throat infections should be tested for strep infection with a culture. If the strep infection is treated on time then it is not likely to develop into rheumatic fever.

Other symptoms that manifest from rheumatic fever are painful and swollen joints, usually the larger joints like knee, elbow, elbow and shoulder joints. It starts with one joint and can keep going from joint to joint. The first joint will heal in a couple of days, but the symptoms will appear in another joint thereafter. Rashes may also appear on the skin, but these are less common. In the beginning, there may not be any symptoms of valve damage, except a little shortness of breath.

The best preventive action is to immediately treat strep throat infection.

Symptoms of rheumatic heart disease:
Symptoms of rheumatic heart disease can vary and even if the heart is damaged, it will not be seen immediately. The symptoms vary because it depends on the location and the extent of the heart damage. If the heart is affected by rheumatic heart disease, then the person can experience -

fever

chest pain or stomach pain

extreme fatigue and weight loss

heart palpitations or a pounding sensation in the heart as it is forced to work harder to pump blood,

swollen ankles and wrists or nodules on joints

shortness of breath

involuntary movements of arms, legs, or facial muscles

redcolored rash in chest, back, and abdomen

In severe cases, it can leadto congestive heart failure especially when the blood accumulates in the blood vessels as well as in the patient’s tissues as the heart is unable to pump out blood that enters the heart.

Almost 60% of people with rheumatic fever develop some degree of heart disease.

Treatment :
Treatment depends on the individual's symptoms and the doctor will conduct an examination of the blood, check the joint inflammation, listen for heart murmurs, and order a chest x-ray or an echocardiogram. The doctor will decide the treatment based on the results of the examination and they can vary from individual to individual.

In the case of rheumatic heart disease, prevention of rheumatic fever is the key as rheumatic fever causes rheumatic heart disease. Antibiotics such as penicillin are used to treat the bacterial strep throat infection. It is possible that the patient is given daily or monthly dose of antibiotics to prevent the rheumatic fever. Sometimes they might have to take the antibiotics for the rest of their lives so as to lower the chances of contracting an infection of the heart valves or lining of the heart. Inflammation can be reduced with the use of aspirins or steroids if needed. Sometimes surgery could be required to repair or replace the damage to the heart valves.


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