Rheumatic fever Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, and Prevention

Rheumatic fever is a type of acute inflammation that can occur if streptococcal sore throat or scarlet fever is not treated properly. The main cause of this condition is the Group A (beta-hemolytic) streptococcus bacterial infection, which is responsible for causing strep throat and scarlet fever.

This condition is most commonly found in children between the ages of 5 to 15 years, but it can also affect younger children and adults. Rheumatic fever is a significant problem in developing countries and can lead to permanent heart damage such as damaged heart valves and heart failure, as well as neurological problems like rheumatic chorea. Fortunately, appropriate treatment can help relieve pain, reduce inflammation-related damage, and prevent rheumatic fever from recurring in the future.

To diagnose rheumatic fever, there are two types of criteria that need to be met: major and minor. When two major manifestations or one major manifestation and two minor manifestations are present, rheumatic fever is diagnosed. However, there must be evidence of beta-hemolytic streptococcal infection.

Symptoms of rheumatic fever usually appear two to four weeks after a sore throat or tonsillitis, which may accompany a fever. The disease may appear to be cured even without treatment after two to three weeks. However, the symptoms may reappear after a few days.

In this article, we have discussed in-depth the symptoms, causes, complications, and treatments of rheumatic fever. It is important to recognize the signs of rheumatic fever and seek appropriate treatment to prevent any long-term damage.

What causes Rheumatic Fever?

Rheumatic fever is caused by an overreaction of your immune system, which causes it to attack healthy tissues. This overreaction can be triggered by an untreated strep throat or scarlet fever infection. When group A streptococcus infections are not adequately treated with antibiotics, this takes place.

When your body's protections (antibodies) start fighting back, the reaction can damage healthy tissues and organs rather than the bacteria.

What are the Symptoms of Rheumatic Fever?

The bacteria beta-hemolytic streptococcus becomes infected through contaminated food and an unsanitary environment and attacks the tonsils and throat glands, causing rheumatic fever. The consequences of this disease are devastating. In the case of rheumatic fever, doctors divide the disease's symptoms and signs into two criteria: major & minor.

Major Criteria:

  • Migratory Polyarthritis: Pain and swelling in several large joints
  • Pancarditis: Abnormal heart sounds and a fast heartbeat (tachycardia)
  • Sydenham's Chorea: Abnormal movements of body parts
  • Subcutaneous Nodules: Non-tender nodules over bony prominences
  • Erythema Marginatum: A rash that usually appears on the trunk and extremities

Minor Criteria:

  • Fever
  • Arthralgia: Pain in joints
  • Increased blood or C-reactive protein levels
  • ECG Changes: Prolonged P-R interval

By identifying these symptoms, doctors can diagnose rheumatic fever and begin appropriate treatment to prevent further damage.

If you're interested in learning more about infectious diseases, you may want to read about Typhoid Fever. It is a bacterial infection caused by Salmonella typhi, and it is spread through contaminated food or water. The symptoms include high fever, stomach pain, and headache. If left untreated, it can lead to severe complications such as intestinal bleeding, perforation, and even death. To learn more about this disease, click on this link to read our article on Typhoid Fever.

Rheumatic fever diagnosis

Rheumatic fever attacks in children and adolescents aged 5 to 15 years & can be avoided if they are treated as soon as throat inflammation or sore throat occurs. A course of Inj. Benzathine Penicillin for IM single dose or PhenoxymethylPenicillin tablets/syrup for 10 days can prevent the disease. But nothing can be implemented without the doctor's recommendation.

Consult an experienced MBBS doctor first, if you suspect rheumatic fever. A general physician or an experienced MBBS doctor can consult at home using the DocTime app. By using this app, you can take online doctor consultations through video calls. After taking the consultation, you will get the doctor's prescription through the app.

You also do not have to go out and buy the medicine prescribed by the doctor. If you order those through the DocTime app, you will receive all necessary medications at your home with a maximum 10% discount. Diagnostic tests are also available. A skilled and experienced lab technician will come to your home to collect blood sample/s. Within 24 hours, you will also receive the test report through the app and at your home address.

Doctors recommend a Benzathine Penicillin injection every 3-4 weeks for people who have had one or more periods of rheumatic fever or suffer from rheumatic heart disease. They suggest taking penicillin tablets twice a day as an alternative strategy.

When should I call the doctor?

Make an appointment with a pediatrician if any of the following strep throat symptoms appear:

  • Sore throat that appears unexpectedly
  • Swallowing discomfort
  • Fever
  • Vomiting, nausea, and stomach ache.

What are the risk factors for rheumatic fever?

The following factors increase your child's risk of developing rheumatic fever:

  • A family tree: Certain genes increase the chances of getting rheumatic fever
  • The type of strep bacteria that is present: Certain infections are more likely than others to cause rheumatic fever.
  • Environmental factors: Ecological factors such as overcrowding, and poor sanitation are prevalent in developing countries.

What to do if you Have a Rheumatic Fever?

Penicillin can be used to prevent rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease. However, no medication should be taken without the advice of a doctor. If a child has rheumatic fever, it should be treated as soon as possible by a pediatrician.

If you have rheumatic heart disease, you may need to use a child Specialist`s prescribed medications for a long time, sometimes for the rest of your life, depending on your doctor's advice. Apart from that, the rules that should be followed in the event of rheumatic fever are as follows:

  • Bed rest
  • Spending time outside in the fresh air and open environment
  • Be wary of tooth, mouth, or infection
  • Be wary of the cold
  • Increase your intake of vegetables, fruits, fish, and whole grains
  • Avoid drinking tea, coffee, and eating canned food
  • Do not eat outside food of outside.

Prevention of rheumatic fever

People who live in an unsanitary crowded environment are more likely to contract the disease. To avoid rheumatic fever, avoid being in such an environment. Furthermore, maintaining personal hygiene is critical in order to avoid contracting this disease. If you are cautious, you can avoid collaborating with this disease. Recognize what precautions should be taken to avoid rheumatic fever-

  • After eating, thoroughly wash your hands and face.
  • Brush your teeth thoroughly after waking up in the morning and before going to bed at night.
  • After using the washroom, thoroughly wash your hands.
  • Regularly drinking pure water
  • Must seek pediatrician’s advice if sore throat occurs 
  • Three times a day, gargle with lukewarm water and salt.

Even if symptoms improve, anti-rheumatic treatment should not be discontinued. There is a chance that this disease will recur. As a result, if you have rheumatic fever, you should take medicine on a regular basis as prescribed by your doctor. It significantly reduces the possibility of relapse.