Rheumatic fever is an inflammatory condition that develops as a complication of incorrectly treated strep throat. Strep throat is caused by an infection with group A streptococcus bacteria.
Rheumatic fever is commonest in children, though it may develop in adults too. Rheumatic fever can impair your heart; including damaging the heart valves and cause heart failure.
Signs And Symptoms Of Rheumatic Fever
The commencement of rheumatic fever occurs about 2 to 4 weeks after a streptococcus throat infection.
Common manifestations include:
- Heart murmur
- Pain in the chest.
- The joints in the body become swollen, red, painful and tender.
- Pain in one joint may migrate to another.
- Painless, tiny nodules underneath the skin.
- Flat or slightly raised, painless rash.
- Jerky, uncontrollable body movements
- Outbursts of abnormal behavior.
What Causes Rheumatic Fever Disease?
Rheumatic fever occurs after a throat infection with Streptococcus or group A streptococcus. The precise connection between strep infection and rheumatic fever is not very clear, however, it does appear that the strep bacteria ‘play tricks’ on your immune mechanism.
The strep bacterium has a protein that is similar to one found in certain tissues of the body. The immune system cells which usually target the bacterium tend to treat the body’s own tissues as infectious agents thus triggering an inflammation.
If the individual receives prompt and complete treatment to eliminate the bacteria there’s very little risk of developing rheumatic fever. If the child has had one or more episodes of strep throat that hasn’t been treated adequately, he may develop rheumatic fever.
Treatment Guidelines For Rheumatic Fever
The chief aim of the treatment is to annihilate any remaining A streptococcal bacteria, allay the symptoms, keep the inflammation in check and prevent recurrences.
- Antibiotics: A strong antibiotic will be administered to eliminate all strep bacteria from the body. After completion of the full antibiotic course, your health care provider will start another course of antibiotics to help ward off against recurrences of rheumatic fever. Normally, this preventive treatment needs to be continued till the child is 21 years old. Those who experience inflammation of the heart when they had rheumatic fever are advised to take the preventive antibiotic treatment longer or even for life.
- Anti-inflammatory treatment: Medications will be given to reduce inflammation, pain and fever. In severe cases, corticosteroids will be prescribed.
- Anticonvulsant drugs: In case the involuntary movements are very severe, your physician may prescribe an anti-convulsant to manage the case better.
- Your health care provider may advise you bed rest and may ask you to limit his activities until the inflammation, swelling, fever and pain have subsided. In case inflammation is present in the heart tissues, your physician will advocate strict bed rest for a couple of weeks to a few months, depending up on the extent of the inflammation. Proper treatment as well as follow ups are very vital; adhere to them strictly.
- Long-term care: Confer with your doctor what type of follow-up and long-term care you are likely to need. Impairment to the heart due to rheumatic fever does not become evident until several years after the throat illness.