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What is Rheumatic Fever? Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

What is Rheumatic Fever?

Rheumatic fever is an inflammatory disease that develops as a complication of inadequately treated strep throat. Strep Throat happens due to the bacteria streptococcus. It usually affects children from the age of 5 years to 15 years.

Symptoms of Rheumatic Fever:

1. Fever:

Rheumatic fever’s first symptom is the onset of a high body temperature that continues to rise steadily.

2. Painful Joints:

A person affected with rheumatic fever experiences pain in their joints. The joints of your arms and legs will begin to ache a lot. The pain sometimes becomes difficult to bear. The pain usually starts in one particular joint and then spreads all over the other joints of the body.

3. Red or swollen joints:

The joints will not only ache but may also become red and swollen. The swelling may make it all the more tough for one to perform tasks like walking. You may also notice redness in the joints. If you do, you are surely down with rheumatic fever.

4. Painless Nodules:

Nodules are small balls which develop under the skin. If you have rheumatic fever you will have these nodules too under your skin. These nodules will be painless.

5. Chest Pain:

With fever as well as body pain the patient may also experience pain in the chest. Since rheumatic fever mostly affects kids, pain in the chest is an unusual sign and must indicates clear sign of rheumatic fever.

6. Rash:

The rashes developed during rheumatic fever differ from the normal ones. These rashes are Flat or slightly raised, painless rash with a ragged edge also known as erythema marginatum.

7. Uncontrollable body movements:

The movements of the body are involuntary as well as jerky. These movements most commonly affect the hands, legs and face. This condition is medically termed as Sydenham chorea, or St. Vitus’ dance.

8. Unusual behavior:

The patient may exhibit unusual behaviour. He/She may be extremely happy at once and begin to cry suddenly. They throw unnecessary tantrums and also sometimes scream around. All these indicate strep throat or rheumatic fever.

9. Thick Blood Discharge from Nose:

In some cases, the patient also has thick discharges oozing out of their nose. These discharges appear like mucus but are mixed with blood.

10. Difficulty in swallowing:

Strep throat is the beginning of rheumatic fever. If your child keeps complaining of throat ache while swallowing food or drinking liquids, let it not go unattended. Sometimes, tonsils become red and swollen and also pus or white patches develop in that area. This causes pain and difficulty swallowing.

Causes of Rheumatic Fever:

Rheumatic Fever is caused due to the attack of the bacterium called group A streptococcus. This bacteria can cause strep throat or also scarlet fever in a few people. It is an inflammatory disorder.

Rheumatic fever causes the body to attack its own tissues. As a result of the reaction, inflammation is caused in the tissues.

If you receive proper medical treatment and care while you are diagnosed with strep throat, the chances are that you may not have rheumatic fever.

Diagnosis of Rheumatic Fever:

A simple physical examination could help to diagnose rheumatic fever. The doctor examines the patient for the following things:

1. Rashes on the skin

2. Nodules on the skin

3. Bleeding nose

4. Throat examination is made to check for swelling.

5. Performing tests to check for normal nervous system.

6. Examination of joints for pain and inflammation.

7. Test blood for presence of bacteria streptococcus.

Risk Factors:

Factors that can increase the risk of rheumatic fever include:

1. Family History:

Some people carry genes which can lead to rheumatic fever.

2. Type of strep bacteria:

Strep bacteria are of various types. Certain types from among them can lead to rheumatic fever.

3. Environmental factor:

Rheumatic fever is caused due to bacterial attack. These enter our body through mediums of water and air. Clean sanitation, environment and a dirt free surrounding is important to stay away from bacteria.

Complications due to Rheumatic Fever:

Inflammation caused due to rheumatic fever can last upto a few months.

Rheumatic Heart disease is also a complication that may strike a person around 10-20 years after rheumatic fever has affected a person.

Due to rheumatic heart disease, the two left chambers of the heart get affected that weakens the heart’s capacity to pump blood.

Treatment for Rheumatic Fever:

1. Antibiotics:

The doctor will prescribe antibiotics in order to cure off the fever and also to ensure it does not strike back.

2. Treatment for inflammation:

Rheumatic fever is characterized by inflammation. The joints of arms and legs ache due to inflammation. Medications are hence prescribed for the same. These medications include pain killers like aspirins.

3. Anticonvulsant medications:

These medications are prescribed in order to control involuntary movements that may happen due to rheumatic fever. These medicines are meant to control these movements and relax the arms and legs.

Prevention from Rheumatic Fever:

  • Do not ignore strep throat or scarlet fever. If you treat these and take necessary steps to remedy these diseases, you may prevent rheumatoid arthritis.
  • This article is meant to provide additional information about rheumatic fever. Do not try to use this information to take self prescribed or over the table medications from your pharmacist. See a doctor for a proper treatment.
  • Keep you environment clean. Maintain proper sanitation standards. Ensure least dirt and water accumulation in and around your surrounding. These tips will help you keep away from bacteria that could be the cause of various illnesses.

The following tips are not for you to take self prescribed or over the table medications from your pharmacist. One must take due care to ensure that the patient receives medical attention from doctor in time. Attending to strep throat in time will prevent rheumatic fever in children.

Apart from medical attention, one must take care to ensure that the surroundings are clean. Prevent water accumulation in your surrounding. Maintain proper sanitary conditions and clear off your area from dirt. These basic cleanliness tips will ensure that you are prevented from any kind of bacterial attack.

Shabnam Vandeliwala

Venturing into writing is my second most admired hobby after litigating in courts. An advocate by profession, writing gives me immense sense of satisfaction especially in the time that I'm free from other work.