Sometimes we learn things a little late. Take the case of Rheumatic Fever And Heart Valve Disease from untreated strep throat…
It is most common for children ages 5-15, although it can develop in younger children as well as in adults.
- Rheumatic fever can cause permanent damage to the heart, including the heart valves as well as heart failure.
- It can damage body tissues by causing them to swell, but its greatest danger lies in the damage it can do to your heart.
- In over 50% of cases, Rheumatic Fever leads to scarring of the heart’s valves, which can narrow the valve and make it harder for it to open or close properly. In turn, your heart must work harder to pump blood to the rest of your body.
The symptoms of rheumatic fever usually begin 1 to 6 weeks after a strep infection. They include:
➡ Joint pain or swelling in the wrists, elbows, knees, or ankles
- Small bumps under the skin over elbows or knees (called nodules).
- Maybe a small raised red rash on the chest, back, or stomach
- Stomach pain or lack of appetite
- Weakness, shortness of breath, or feeling very tired
Inflammation caused by rheumatic fever can last from a few weeks to several months and may cause long-term complications.
Rheumatic heart disease is permanent damage to the heart caused by the inflammation of rheumatic fever. The damage may lead to one of these conditions:
- Valve stenosis: A narrowing of the valve, which results in decreased blood flow.
- Valve regurgitation: A leak in the valve, which allows blood to flow in the wrong direction.
- Damage to the heart muscle: The inflammation can weaken the heart muscle, resulting in poor pumping function.
If there is damage to the mitral valve, other heart valves or other heart tissues, it may cause problems with the heart later in life, such as:
- Atrial fibrillation ( irregular, chaotic beating of the Atria (upper chambers).
- Heart failure (inability of the heart to pump enough blood to the body).
The relationship between Rheumatic Fever and Heart Valve Disease from untreated strep throat isn’t completely clear. However, it’s believed that the bacteria affects the immune system, causing it to attack the body’s own tissues as if they were infected, resulting in inflammation.
As with all illnesses, prompt diagnosis and treatment are the keys to prevention of serious and often irreversible complications.
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