Rheumatic fever is a serious inflammatory disorder that commonly appears in children. It may affect the joints, heart, skin and brain. In the following paragraphs we will learn more about rheumatic fever.
What is Rheumatic Fever?
Rheumatic fever occurs as a complication of an infection with bacteria known as group A streptococcus. This can be a strep throat or scarlet fever. The condition develops about 5 weeks after untreated streptococcal infection. However, rheumatic fever is a rare disease that develops in small percentage of cases of throat infection.
Due to modern widespread use of antibiotics, rheumatic fever became fairly uncommon disease. In the United States, the latest outbreak of rheumatic fever occurred in 1980s. On the other hand, in developing countries it is still common.
Rheumatic fever mainly affects children between the ages of 6-15, but may occur in people of all ages. It is two times more common in women than in men. Rheumatic fever is an inflammatory disease that involves the joints, heart, skin and nervous system.
Rheumatic fever is a potentially life-threatening as it tends to affect the valves of the heart leading to the condition known as rheumatic carditis. This causes the heart muscle to pump harder and may eventually lead to heart failure.
Children who frequently suffer from throat infections and those with family history of rheumatic fever are at risk of developing this disease.
Symptoms of Rheumatic Fever
Symptoms of rheumatic fever may vary from patient to patient. However, there are some common symptoms of the disease such as joint swelling, redness and warmth. This commonly involves the ankles, knees, elbows and wrists. Sometimes, the shoulders, hips, hands and feet may be affected too.
Pain and inflammation in one joint may migrate to another. Small, hard and painless nodules develop under the skin. Uncontrollable, jerky body movements are common too. Skin rash may be present too, usually on the trunk and upper legs and arms. Additionally, rheumatic fever causes abdominal pain, fever, fatigue, weight loss, shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat and chest pain.
Treatment for Rheumatic Fever
Treatment for rheumatic fever includes three different approaches. Initially, treatment aims to manage the infection with the use of antibiotics. Low-dose of antibiotics are continued after the infection clears up in order to prevent further complications.
The patient is also given medications to reduce fever, swelling in the heart muscle and inflammation and pain in the joints. These medications include Aspirin, naproxen or corticosteroids.
Finally, bed rest is also prescribed usually from 2 to 12 weeks depending on the severity of the condition.