Rheumatic fever is an inflammatory disease that often occurs after a group A streptococcal throat infection. It is a complication of strep throat or scarlet fever. Rheumatic fever can cause severe, even life-threatening illness in the heart, joints, skin, and brain. The greatest danger of the condition is the damage to the heart, which may lead to rheumatic heart disease, eventually causing the heart to fail. It is a rare disease but most common in younger children between the ages of 5 and 15. According to various statistics, rheumatic fever affects less than 200,000 people in the US population annually, and the average incidence rate is approximately 1 in 83.
fever is mainly caused by a bacterium called group A Streptococcus. Group
A streptococcus infections of the throat cause strep throat, or less commonly,
scarlet fever. However, the link between strep throat and rheumatic fever is
not yet clear. It is estimated that fewer than 0.3% of people with strep throat
ever contract rheumatic fever.
can cause the immune system to attack healthy tissues in the body. These
tissues will become swollen or inflamed. Therefore, a weakened immune system
may be involved in the development of the disease.
lot of symptoms are associated with rheumatic fever. Symptoms usually appear
two to four weeks after experiencing a strep infection. Common symptoms
- Joint pain
- Red, hot or swollen joints
- Small, painless bumps under the skin
- A flat, slightly raised, ragged rash
- Jerky, uncontrollable movements of the hands, feet, and face
- Chest pain
- Heart murmur
- Heart inflammation
- Heart failure
diagnose rheumatic fever, the doctor will first conduct a physical exam to look
for a rash or skin nodules and listen to the patient’s heart to check for any abnormalities.
Besides, other tests and procedures may be done:
- Blood tests
blood test can help detect antibodies to the strep bacterium by circulating in
the blood. The doctor will also check for inflammation in the blood by
measuring C-reactive protein and the erythrocyte sedimentation rate.
- Electrocardiogram (ECG)
test records electrical signals as they travel through the patient’s heart. These
signals may indicate inflammation of the heart or poor heart function so that
the doctor can check and conform the condition.
sound waves to produce live-action images of the heart. The doctor can detect
heart abnormalities in this test.
options for rheumatic fever are shown as follows:
The doctor will prescribe penicillin or other antibiotics to eliminate remaining strep bacteria. The treatment may be a long-term one to prevent it from occurring again. People suffering from heart inflammation during rheumatic fever might need to take the preventive antibiotic treatment for 10 years or longer.
- Anti-inflammatory treatment
The doctor will prescribe a pain reliever, such as aspirin or naproxen, to reduce inflammation, fever and pain. If your symptoms are severe or do not respond to the anti-inflammatory drugs, the doctor might prescribe a corticosteroid.
- Anticonvulsant medications
- Bed rest or hospitalization
The doctor will also recommend bed rest and restricted activities until the major symptoms disappear. Strict bed rest in hospital will be recommended if the condition causes serious heart problems.
Keywords: Rheumatic fever