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.
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.
Factors that may increase your risk of rheumatic fever include:
Symptoms usually appear 2 to 4 weeks after a strep infection. They may include:
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:
The goals of treatment are to:
Treatment may include:
To treat the strep infection:
To help with joint pain and swelling:
In some cases, the inflammation can be severe. You may have to rest for a period of time.
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.
American Heart Association
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
Acute rheumatic fever. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed . Updated September 27, 2012. Accessed February 14, 2013.
Nausieda PA, Grossman BJ, Koller WC: Sydenham chorea: an update. Neurology . 1980;30:331-334.
Rheumatic fever. Texas Heart Institute website. Available at: http://www.texasheartinstitute.org/HIC/Topics/cond/rheufev.cfm . Updated October 2012. Accessed February 14, 2013.
Robertson KA, Volmink JA, Mayosi BM. Antibiotics for the primary prevention of acute rheumatic fever. BMC Cardiovasc Disorders . 2005; 5:11.
Spagnuolo M, Pasternack B, Taranta A. Risk of rheumatic fever recurrences after streptococcal infections: prospective study of clinical and social factors. N Engl J Med . 1971;285:641-647.
Last reviewed March 2013 by Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 03/15/2013
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