What is rheumatic fever?

You might have heard rheumatic fever, but is it related to rheumatism? Below you can find a thorough review on general information you need to know about rheumatic fever.

Rheumatic fever is an inflammatory disease that develops as a complication of inadequately treated strep throat or scarlet fever. Group A streptococcus bacteria are the causative agent in scarlet fever and strep throat. Strep throat and scarlet fever are common infectious diseases of the childhood, thus no wonder that rheumatic fever is primarily seen in 5 to 15 years children.

Strep throat is very common in USA but rheumatic fever is rare owing to proper and adequate treatment of children in the country. However, rheumatic fever remains common in many developing countries.

Rheumatic disease per se is not very dangerous as it is a self-remitting condition. However, complications of the disease are fearsome. Generally after 2 to 4 weeks after strep throat infection, symptoms of rheumatic fever are presented. The symptoms in rheumatic fever are the result of body reaction to the primary infection of the throat. During the first infection, antibodies which are formed to fight the bacterial infection, react with the body own tissues, notably joints and heart.

This process of inflammation leads to complications of the disease. The symptoms of rheumatic fever starts with fever, painful joints mostly knees and elbows which can migrate from a joint to another, painless nodules under the skin or ragged edge rashes, later in the disease development jerky, uncontrollable body movements known as Sydenham chorea can develop. In the heart, rheumatic fever can lead to valvular disease like mitral valve stenosis, mitral valve prolapse or aortic valve disease.

Since after formation of the disease, all treatments are aimed to reduce the complications, the best way is to prevent the formation of rheumatic fever. If your child had symptoms of common cold like fever, sore throat with fever and cough indicative of a bacterial infection, visit a pediatrician to make sure appropriate care is given to your child.