Rheumatic fever is the damage to the heart valves
because of errant immune system reaction triggered by strep
throat. The streptococcal bacteria infection itself does
not cause the heart valve damage, rather it was the immune system
that mistakenly attack the body's own tissue.
Left untreated, rheumatic fever can result in permanent damage
to the heart, especially the mitral valve. Often,
this damage is not immediately noticeable - however, it may cause
serious health problems later on.
Symptoms of Rheumatic Fever
The symptoms of rheumatic fever are:
- Recent sore throat
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Short of breath
- Joint pain and swelling
Who is Susceptible to Rheumatic Fever?
Most cases of rheumatic fever occurs in children ages 5 to 15
and occurs approximately 2 to 3 weeks after a strep throat infection.
It is twice as likely to occur in girls than boys.
Rheumatic Fever Treatment
The treatment for rheumatic fever includes:
- Oral antibiotics, such as penicillin
- Antibiotic injections
After a course of antibiotics, your doctor may prescribe long-term
antibiotic medications as preventive or prophylaxis.
The prognosis for this disease depends on the extent and type
of the heart damage. For example, heart failure, cardiomyopathy
or the weakening of the heart muscle, and pericarditis or inflammation
of a tissue that covers the heart, have poorer prognosis.
About 80% of children who develop rheumatic fever grow up to
adulthood - however, 60% of them will have permanent heart damage
that may require surgery at a later time.