Rheumatic Fever

Rheumatic fever is an inflammatory condition. It involves the connective tissue in the body. The most severe complication is rheumatic heart disease. This condition may permanently damage the heart valves. Valves control the flow of blood to and from the heart.

  • Causes


    Rheumatic fever is caused by group A
    Streptococcus pharyngitis, also known as
    strep throat. In this case, the body uses antibodies to fight the infection, but the antibodies also attack the heart.

  • Definition

    Rheumatic fever is an inflammatory condition. It involves the connective tissue in the body. The most severe complication is rheumatic heart disease. This condition may permanently damage the heart valves. Valves control the flow of blood to and from the heart.

    Diseased Heart Valve
    Diseased Aortic Valve
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  • Diagnosis

    The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. This will include a careful exam of your heart.


    Other tests may include:


    • Samples may be taken of your bodily fluids and tissues. This can be done with:

      • Blood tests
      • Throat culture

    • You may need to have pictures taken of your heart. This can be done with:

      • Echocardiogram
      • Chest x-rays

    • You may need to have your heart activity measured. This can be done with an
      electrocardiogram
      .

  • Prevention


    It is important to treat strep throat with antibiotics right away. This will help prevent rheumatic fever. If you or your child has a
    sore throat
    and a fever that lasts more than 24 hours, contact your doctor.

  • Risk Factors

    Factors that may increase your risk of rheumatic fever include:

    • Having strep throat
    • Prior case of rheumatic fever
    • Age: 5 to 15 years old

  • Symptoms

    Symptoms usually appear 2 to 4 weeks after a strep infection. They may include:

    • Pain and swelling in large joints
    • Fever
    • Weakness
    • Muscle aches
    • Shortness of breath
    • Chest pain
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Hacking cough
    • Circular rash
    • Lumps under the skin
    • Abnormal, sudden movements of arms and legs

  • Treatment

    The goals of treatment are to:

    • Kill the strep bacteria
    • Treat the inflammation caused by the rheumatic fever
    • Treat any cardiac problems
    • Prevent future cases of rheumatic fever

    Treatment may include: