Congestive Heart Failure
Alternative Heart Disease Treatment
Rheumatic Heart Disease
Rheumatic Heart Disease
From Loyota University Health System
What is Rheumatic Heart Disease:
Rheumatic heart disease is a condition in which permanent damage to heart valves
is caused from rheumatic fever. The heart valve is damaged by a disease process
that begins with a strep throat caused by streptococcus A bacteria, that may
eventually cause rheumatic fever.
Rheumatic fever can affect many connective
tissues of the body — especially those of the heart, joints, brain or skin.
Anyone can get acute rheumatic fever, but it usually occurs in children five
to 15 years old. It is a rare but potentially life-threatening disease, a
complication of untreated strep throat. Because of antibiotics,
rheumatic fever is now rare in developed countries. However, in recent years,
it has begun to make a comeback in the United States, particularly among
children living in poor inner-city neighborhoods.
The greatest danger from rheumatic fever is
the damage it can do to the heart. In more than half of all cases, rheumatic
fever scars the valves of the heart, forcing it to work harder to pump blood.
Over a period of months or even years, particularly if the disease strikes
again, damage to the heart can lead to the serious condition of rheumatic
In rheumatic heart disease, the damaged heart
valve either does not completely close or completely open. Sometimes damage to
heart valves is not immediately noticeable, but eventually damaged heart valves
can cause serious, even disabling, problems. These problems depend on the
severity of the damage and on which heart valve is affected. The most advanced
condition is congestive heart failure.
What are Symptoms of Rheumatic Fever:
Symptoms, which vary greatly, typically begin one to six weeks after a
bout of strep throat, although in some cases the infection may have been too
mild to have been recognized. Symptoms may include:
- red, raised, lattice-like rash, usually on
the chest, back and abdomen
- swollen, tender, red and extremely painful
joints — particularly the knees, ankles, elbows or wrists
- nodules, or small bony protuberances, over
the swollen joints
- sometimes, weakness and shortness of breath
- sometimes, uncontrolled movements of arms,
legs or facial muscles
Can Rheumatic Heart Disease be
The best defense against rheumatic heart disease is to prevent
rheumatic fever from ever occurring by treating a streptococcus A bacteria with
penicillin or other antibiotics. Treatment can usually stop acute rheumatic
fever from developing.
People who have already had attacks of rheumatic
fever are more susceptible to further attacks and the risk of heart damage. They
may be given continuous monthly or daily antibiotic treatment, perhaps even for
life. They also are given a different antibiotic when they undergo dental or
surgical procedures that may increase the risk of bacterial endocarditis.