Acute rheumatic fever is a condition that can affect various parts of the body including the joints, heart, skin and the brain. It usually occurs after a throat infection brought about by the bacteria group A streptococcus. If acute rheumatic fever involves the heart, it can damage the heart valves which is called rheumatic heart disease.
Acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease can result to significant lasting heart issues especially if not identified early and managed properly.
What are the indications of acute rheumatic fever?
Individuals with acute rheumatic fever might complain of any of the following:
- Painless lumps on the skin
- Non-itchy rash
- Chest pain
- Swollen, painful or reddened joints
- Erratic body movements or twitching
- Rapid heart rate
- Shortness of breath
Remember that the symptoms might follow a sore throat. Oftentimes, the doctor might even hear a “heart murmur” if a stethoscope is used.
Who are at risk?
- Children ages 5-14
- Young adults
- Individuals who had one episode of acute rheumatic fever
After an episode of acute rheumatic fever, the individual should undergo preventive treatment for group A streptococcus infection to avert further attacks as well as prevent ongoing damage to the heart.
The preventive treatment involves antibiotic injections every 3-4 weeks. The treatment is usually for a minimum of 10 years after the last episode of acute rheumatic fever.
Immediate treatment of skin sores and sore throat among those at high risk can also minimize the risk for an attack.
Acute rheumatic fever can be managed with medications to alleviate the discomfort linked with fever and swollen joints. For those with rheumatic heart disease, the objective of treatment is to avoid further complications of heart disease. In severe cases, surgery is required.
Aside from antibiotics, those with acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease might require:
- Regular appointments with the doctor
- Regular check-ups with a specialist to monitor the heart and a dentist to maintain oral health
- Vaccinations against the flu and pneumococcal infection