What is Rheumatic Fever?
Rheumatic fever is inflammation of the body’s organ systems, mainly joints, skin, brain and the heart.The fever mostly develops two or three weeks after the streptococcal infection of the throat. It is so named because of its similarities with Rheumatic disorder (medical conditions affecting the joints and connective tissue).
How does it affect the heart?
The heart is considerably affected by this infection. The valves and membranes of the heart are damaged by rheumatic fever, which results in improper opening and closing of the valves. Although most of the patients recover completely from the fever, a small percentage of people damage their heart permanently. When the damage is permanent it is called rheumatic heart disease.It can effect any valve , especially mitral valve.The valves may become aberrantly narrow (mitral valve stenosis), leaky (mitral valve regurgitation) or both. These damages to the valves may ultimately cause heart failure and atrial fibrillation later in life of the patient.
Who are generally affected by Rheumatic fever?
Rheumatic fever commonly appears in children between the ages of 5 to 15. It can occur in children who have had streptococcal infections before and were left untreated or inadequately treated. The occurrence of rheumatic fever has been greatly reduced by the widespread use of antibiotics used to treat strep throat bacteria that causes the fever.
What are symptoms of Rheumatic fever?
The symptoms vary depending on which part of the body is affected. The most common symptoms are joint pain, chest ache, breathlessness, fatigue, fainting attacks, fever and heart inflammation (carditis). Some patients who are affected by heart inflammation have no symptoms but the inflammations are recognized years later when the heart damage is discovered. Some of the patients, mainly children, experience rapid heart beating while others experience chest pain due to the inflammation of the sac around the heart. Heart failure may follow,due to which the child feels tired and feels short of breath. Symptoms like nausea, vomiting, stomachache and nonproductive cough may follow the line. Within a period of about five months the heart inflammation disappears. However permanent damage to the heart valves may occur resulting in rheumatic heart disease. The likeliness of rheumatic heart disease varies according to the severity of the initial heart inflammation. 1% of patients who had no heart inflammation develop rheumatic heart disease, compared to 30% who had mild and 70% who had severe inflammation.
What are the treatment options for Rheumatic Fever?
The treatment for rheumatic fever includes medication and surgery. There are three goals: eliminating residual streptococcal infection, reducing inflammations in the heart and joints, and providing treatment which is aimed to relive the symptoms.To reduce the inflammation and pain Aspirin is given in high doses. Other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as naproxen, are also used in the treatment. For severe heart inflammation, corticosteroids such as prednisone are given.
How can Rheumatic fever be prevented?
Further progress of rheumatic fever to rheumatic heart disease can be prevented by seeking immediate medical help and with complete antibiotic treatment of strep throat.