Rheumatic heart disease, also known as RHD, is a chronic heart disease that is caused by rheumatic fever. Rheumatic fever is the result of an untreated or severe case of streptococcal infection, or strep throat. RHD is considered one of the most common forms of heart disease and is frequently found in children, especially in developing countries and poverty-stricken areas.
Symptoms of rheumatic fever include:
• Muscle aches
• Swollen and painful joints
• Involuntary movements of the body, also known as Sydenham’s chorea, a temporary nervous system disorder
Rheumatic fever is caused by a severe, inflammatory reaction to strep throat. The body produces antibodies that are meant to fight the infection’s bacteria, but instead attack the body’s tissue. These antibodies usually begin by attacking joint tissue and, if untreated, continue to attack the heart and the tissue surrounding it.
Factors that contribute to rheumatic fever are a weak immune system and poor living conditions. If this disease persists or reoccurs, it can cause valve damage, which can lead to heart disease, heart failure, and, in some cases, death.
Rheumatic fever can be prevented by treating strep throat during its early stages. If you are experiencing a sore throat without common cold symptoms and have a fever of 101 Fahrenheit or above, it could be strep throat. Strep throat is commonly treated by a 10-day oral antibiotic or one intramuscular penicillin injection. In order to prevent rheumatic fever from reoccurring, it is important to receive regulated injections of antibiotics, which are given for an extended period of time, also known as secondary prevention.
If you have strep throat that has gone untreated and may have rheumatic fever, seek medical attention immediately at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center’s Family Medicine Department. For more information, please call 718-206-6942.
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