Rheumatic Fever

Rheumatic fever is a delayed consequence of an untreated upper respiratory infection with group A streptococci . The disease can cause serious, debilitating damage to the heart and involve other tissues. Only a small percentage of all people who have streptococcal pharyngitis will actually develop acute rheumatic fever.

In Western countries, it became somewhat rare since the 1960s, likely due to the widespread use of antibiotics to treat streptococcus infections. There have been a few outbreaks since the 1980s. Although the disease seldom occurs in the US, it is serious and has a mortality of 2–5%.

Initially, rheumatic fever is acute. The major symptoms of rheumatic fever are: carditis, polyarthritis, chorea, subcutaneous nodules, and a rash called erythema marginatum.

Carditis is the most significant manifestation of rheumatic fever because it may cause permanent organ damage or death. Carditis is frequently mild or asymptomatic and therefore difficult to detect. Although not fully understood, a person’s immune system response to a streptococcal infection appears to cause tissue degeneration, most frequently heart valve tissue, and subsequently, cardiac disability or death.

Polyarthritis is arthritis in a number of joints at a time. Subcutaneous nodules are firm, painless lesions that occur over bony surfaces just under the skin. Erythema marginatum is a rash that appears mostly on the trunk and extremities.

The peak age of incidence for rheumatic fever is 5 to 15 years, but cases do occur in adults. Acute rheumatic fever is rare in children less than 4 years of age.

There is a latent period of 1 to 5 weeks (average 19 days) between streptococcal pharyngitis and the initial episode of acute rheumatic fever. The average duration of an attack of acute rheumatic fever is 3 months or longer.

There are no specific laboratory tests to diagnose acute rheumatic fever. In general, rheumatic fever can be diagnosed with documentation of a recent infection with group A streptococcal infection and observation of one or more of the major symptoms.

Prevention of rheumatic fever involves prompt, accurate diagnosis and effective treatment of streptococcal pharyngitis especially in school-aged children and others who live in crowded conditions such as the military and large households.

 


Signs, symptoms & indicators of Rheumatic Fever

Symptoms - Metabolic  

Having a slight/having a moderate/having a high fever




Rheumatic Fever can lead to

Organ Health  

Rheumatic Heart Disease

After the acute attack of rheumatic fever has subsided, many people are left with damaged heart valves (rheumatic heart disease). Some people will have recurrent acute attacks of rheumatic fever, frequently causing more damage to the heart valves.




Recommendations for Rheumatic Fever

Drug  

Antibiotics

Antibiotics will not modify an acute rheumatic fever attack nor affect the subsequent development of carditis. However, a recommended regimen of antibiotics prescribed for treatment of streptococcal pharyngitis is recommended to eradicate any group A streptococci remaining in the patient, and in part, to prevent spread of the organism to close contacts.



Key

Weak or unproven link
Strong or generally accepted link
Likely to help

Glossary

Acute

An illness or symptom of sudden onset, which generally has a short duration.

Chorea

Chorea is seen as rapid, purposeless, involuntary movements in the extremities and the face. Chorea is a neurologic syndrome that may appear several months after infection with Streptococcus Type A, the agent causing rheumatic fever..

Asymptomatic

Not showing symptoms.

Immune System

A complex that protects the body from disease organisms and other foreign bodies. The system includes the humoral immune response and the cell-mediated response. The immune system also protects the body from invasion by making local barriers and inflammation.

Cardiac

Pertaining to the heart, also, pertaining to the stomach area adjacent to the esophagus.

Arthritis

Inflammation of a joint, usually accompanied by pain, swelling, and stiffness, and resulting from infection, trauma, degenerative changes, metabolic disturbances, or other causes. It occurs in various forms, such as bacterial arthritis, osteoarthritis, or rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis, the most common form, is characterized by a gradual loss of cartilage and often an overgrowth of bone at the joints.

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