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Rheumatic Fever

What is Rheumatic Fever?

Rheumatic fever is an inflammatory disease which may develop after an infection with streptococcus bacteria, such as strep throat or scarlet fever. It can involve the heart, joints, skin, and brain.

Rheumatic fever is common worldwide and is responsible for many cases of damaged heart valves. Rheumatic fever primarily affects children between ages 6 and 15 and occurs approximately 20 days after strep throat or scarlet fever.

What Causes Rheumatic Fever?

The exact cause of rheumatic fever is unknown.

What are the Symptoms of Rheumatic Fever?

Symptoms of rheumatic fever generally appear within five weeks after an untreated strep throat infection. The most common symptoms of rheumatic fever are:

  • Fever
  • Joint pain, migratory arthritis -- involving primarily knees, elbows, ankles, and wrists
  • Joint swelling
  • Abdominal pain
  • Skin rash
    • Skin eruption on the trunk and upper part of arms or legs
    • Eruptions that are ring-shaped or snake-like in appearance
  • Skin nodules
  • Sydenham's chorea
  • Nosebleeds
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Sore throat
  • Red and swollen tonsils
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches

Can Rheumatic Fever be Treated? 

Yes. Treatment for acute rheumatic fever is geared towards the reduction of inflammation with anti-inflammatory medications such as aspirin or corticosteroids. Other treatments include antibiotics and medication to reduce joint pain.

Complications of Rheumatic Fever

Some common complications of rheumatic fever are:

  • Damage to heart valves
  • Endocarditis
  • Heart failure
  • Arrhythmias
  • Pericarditis
  • Sydenham's chorea

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