What is Rheumatic Fever?
Rheumatic Fever is classified as an inflammatory ailment which develops as a result of poorly medicated strep throat. This is a condition that is triggered by a certain type of bacteria known as streptococcus. Rheumatic Fever is quite prevalent in children aged between 5 and 15 years. Then again, it is important to point out that the infection can develop in both teenagers and adults. Even though the condition is quite rare in the US as well as developing nations, Rheumatic Fever is still a source of concern in a majority of developing countries.
If left untreated for a long time, Rheumatic Fever can cause serious health complications, for example, heart damage. Seeking medical treatment at the right time will not only help in minimizing tissue damage as a result of inflammation, but alleviate the discomforts and pains associated with the signs and symptoms associated with the disease. Then again, treatment is required in order to prevent possible recurrences of the infection in the future.
Symptoms of Rheumatic Fever
The signs and symptoms associated with Rheumatic Fever tend to differ from one person to the other. There are people who experience multiple symptoms and those who only experience a few indicators. Still, the indicators can also alter during the duration of the ailment. The start of Rheumatic Fever infection often occurs during the first 4 weeks. This is usually after contracting strep throat infection.
The most common signs and symptoms of Rheumatic Fever are those that are associated with the inflammation of the heart, central nervous system, skin and joints. Then again, there are certain signs and symptoms which can indicate to you that you are suffering from this bacterial infection. Listed below, are other symptoms of Rheumatic Fever:
– Chest pains.
– Shortness of breath.
– Increased heart rate.
– Inflamed joints. The pain can at times be excruciating such that you cannot move or walk properly.
– Migration of pain from one joint to the other.
– Surges of abnormal behaviors, for example, inapt laughing, improper crying. These behaviors are usually accompanied by Sydenham chorea.
– Swollen and painful joints. The tenderness mostly occurs in the elbows, ankles, wrists and knees. Once in a while you may experience pain in the shoulders, feet and hips.
– Tiny, painless lumps under the skin.
When Should You See a Doctor?
Perhaps the biggest question that one has as soon as they realize that they have Rheumatic Fever is when they should seek medical treatment. The instance you notice signs and symptoms associated with strep throat, you need to see a doctor. Correct and timely treatment of strep throat can deter Rheumatic Fever. Take your child to the nearest pediatrician as soon as you notice the following symptoms in your child:
– Rashes on the skin.
– Problems with swallowing foods and drinks. At times, your child may find it hard to swallow saliva.
– Blood-like discharge coming from the nose. This is a common indicator in children less than 3 years.
– Sore throat which is not accompanied by cold and flu symptoms like runny nose.
– Sore throat which is accompanied by inflamed, tender lymph glands.
You also need to call or visit the nearest health center if you notice the following fever symptoms in your child:
– Infants who are less than six weeks old and are experiencing temperatures of 37.8 degrees Celsius.
– Toddlers aged between six weeks and two years who are experiencing temperatures of more than 38.9 degrees Celsius.
– If you child has been experiencing high temperatures for more than two days.
Do not hesitate to see a doctor if your child displays some of the signs and symptoms commonly associated with Rheumatic Fever.
What Causes Rheumatic Fever?
Rheumatic Fever often occurs following a throat infection. The ailment is triggered by a type of bacteria commonly referred to as Streptococcus. This is the same type of bacteria that is known to trigger various throat infections such as strep throat. While there is a genus of the bacteria that causes skin infections, this class has not been known to cause Rheumatic Fever.
The precise connection between Rheumatic Fever and Strep Throat infection is still a mystery to doctors and scientists. However, several clinical studies show that the bacteria ‘deceives’ the immune system. The bacteria causing strep throat comprises of a type of protein which is akin to the types of proteins that are found in tissues and cells in the body. Consequently, the body’s defenses that would normally fight the bacteria, target the body’s tissues and cells thereby treating them in the same way as infection. This type of reaction by the immune system is what triggers inflammation in the heart, central nervous system joints and skin.
Chances of contracting Rheumatic Fever are extremely minimal if you have properly been treated for strep bacteria using the right antibiotics. Then again, treatment has to be done on time and the prescribed dosage completed. Incorrect treatment of strep throat is what usually causes recurrences in children in addition to making them susceptible to Rheumatic Fever. It is for this reason that you need to see a doctor the instant you have noticed the symptoms of strep.
There are certain factors which may increase your chances of suffering from Rheumatic Fever. Listed below, are some of the risk factors that may enhance the risks of contracting the infection:
– Family History: There are certain genetic structures that make one prone to Rheumatic Fever. If there have been cases of Rheumatic Fever in your family, there are chances that you too may suffer from the condition in the foreseeable future.
– Strains of Strep Bacteria: There are particular types of strep bacteria that can make you more susceptible to the condition.
– Environmental Issues: According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), a big percentage of Rheumatic Fever diagnosis can be attributed to environmental factors. If you have been exposed to strep bacteria, there are chances that you may be affected the ailment in the foreseeable future.
As is the case with other bacterial infections, if left untreated, Rheumatic Fever can trigger a number of health complications. The resulting complications can be long-term, meaning that you will require lifetime treatment.
Rheumatic heart disease is one of the complications triggered by this disease. The condition is triggered by irritation of rheumatic fever. Most of the issues are usually linked to the valves in the left chamber of the heart. Still, it is important to point out that you may experience issues with the valves in the other chamber.
Damages to the valves in the heart can result in the following conditions:
– Valve stenosis.
– Valve regurgitation.
– Injury of the heart muscle.
Getting Ready for the Appointment
If you have noticed the signs and symptoms of Rheumatic Fever in your child, it is important that you consult a pediatrician. However, as you are getting ready for the doctor’s appointment, there are a couple of things that you can do. For example:
– Prepare a list of signs and symptoms that your child has been experiencing. Do not forget to note down even the slightest symptoms that you thought were not of any consequence.
– A list of ailments that your child has suffered from in the recent past.
– Medications that your child is currently on. This should include lists of vitamins and supplements.
In addition to the above, do not forget to ask your doctor as many questions as possible in regards to Rheumatic Fever. For instance:
– What is the right treatment for rheumatic fever?
– How long does it take for the rheumatic fever to clear?
– What measures can be taken in order to avoid possible recurrences of rheumatic fever in the future?
Tests and Diagnosis for Rheumatic Fever
Your physician will conclude that either you or your child is suffering from Rheumatic Fever by:
– Assessing the signs and symptoms reported.
– Checking for presence of inflammation.
– Determining if you or your child recently suffered from strep throat.
Physical examination is needed in order to:
– Determine if there are signs of inflammation in the body.
– Establish if there are tiny lumps under the skin.
– Determine cardiac activity.
Rheumatic Fever Treatment
The objective of Rheumatic Fever treatment is to annihilate any sign of strep bacteria in the body. Treatment is also carried out with an aim of relieving the signs and symptoms associated with the infection. Listed below, are some of the medications that are commonly used in the treatment of Rheumatic Fever:
– Anti-inflammatory agents.
– Anticonvulsant medications.
Your also need to discus with your doctor about the possibility of long-term care as well as follow-ups. Routine checkups are recommended in order to determine if the infection caused some damage to your heart.
Preventing Rheumatic Fever
The only way through which you can prevent this infection from occurring in the first place is treating strep throat infection properly.