Rheumatic Fever

 

 

Overview

Rheumatic fever is a disease that affects the heart, joints, brain, and skin and can cause permanent damage to the heart if left untreated.  Although the causal link between strep throat/scarlet fever and rheumatic fever is still undetermined, rheumatic fever has been shown to develop following improperly treated strep throat and scarlet fever cases caused by group A streptococcus infections of the throat.

Common Symptoms

Fever, arthritis in the knees, elbows, ankles, and wrists, chest pain, shortness of breath, fast heartbeat, fatigue, chorea (a neurological disorder characterized by jerky involuntary movements), nodules under the skin near joints (rare), rashes of pink rings with clear centers, heart murmurs, enlarged heart, and fluid around the heart.

Coexisting Conditions

In rare cases, glomerulonephritis or Sydenham’s chorea may also develop.

 

Risk Factors

Children, particularly those between the ages of 5 and 15, are more commonly affected than other age groups, but anyone can get rheumatic fever. It is rarely seen in children who are below 3 years old or adults. Living or working in areas where group A strep can more easily spread (like schools, daycares, or military training facilities) puts you at a higher risk. In addition, having experienced rheumatic fever in the past makes you more susceptible to contracting it again if you are infected with strep throat or scarlet fever again. 

Some individuals have a family history of rheumatic fever. This point should be noted because some people carry specific genes that have been identified as making them more susceptible to developing rheumatic fever. Lastly, specific strains of strep bacteria are more likely to cause rheumatic fever than others.

Sources

  1. Article Sources and Footnotes
    1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018, November 1). Rheumatic Fever: All You Need to Know. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/groupastrep/diseases-public/rheumatic-fever.html#:~:text=Rheumatic%20fever%20.

    2. Cunningham, C. (2008). Acute Rheumatic Fever. XPharm: The Comprehensive Pharmacology Reference, 1–6. https://doi.org/10.1016/b978-008055232-3.60771-8.

    3. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2019, October 10). Rheumatic fever. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/rheumatic-fever/symptoms-causes/syc-20354588.

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