Rheumatic fever is a serious complication that can manifest after an untreated throat infection, usually by the group A streptococcus bacteria.
The indications of rheumatic fever generally include joint pain and swelling as well as heart inflammation that can lead to chest pain and shortness of breath. The symptoms typically last for up to 4 weeks but can become persistent for several months.
What is the cause?
The signs of rheumatic fever are caused by the response of the immune system. Once the body perceives the streptococcal infection, antibodies are released to fight it. Nevertheless, the antibodies oftentimes attack the tissues in the body such as the heart or joints.
In case the antibodies attack the heart, the heart valves become swollen which can lead to scarring of the valves.
Management of rheumatic fever
At the present, there is no available cure for rheumatic fever. The treatment is aimed on relieving the symptoms with drugs and attempting to prevent lasting damage to the body, especially the heart.
If an individual experience an episode of rheumatic fever, it is likely for future attacks to occur. This can be prevented by using a long-term course of antibiotics.
Rheumatic fever can lead to lasting damage to the heart valves which is called as rheumatic heart disease.
It is important to note that rheumatic heart disease can result to serious complications such as stroke and heart failure.
What is the outlook?
The outlook for an individual with rheumatic fever is based on whether he/she sustained serious heart damage. In case the heart is impaired, it is not likely to completely recover. In such instances, the signs of rheumatic heart disease such as excessive fatigue and shortness of breath can persist.
If the heart is not damaged, prolonged use of antibiotics must prevent the recurrence of rheumatic fever which must prevent damage to the heart.