Rheumatic Fever

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:

  • Fever
  • Recent sore throat
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Short of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Rash
  • 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.

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