Rheumatic fever is a relatively serious illness and complication which happens due to a reaction with bacteria that causes strep throat, group A streptococcus. It affects children in the ages of 5 and 15 and sometimes older children as well as adults and still not uncommon in sub-Saharan Africa, South Central Asia and parts of Australia and New Zealand. If left untreated, it can cause permanent damage to the heart,even death.
Rheumatic fever symptoms show up after 2 or 3 weeks of a strep throat diagnosis. Check your child for the following symptoms and get a strep test done -
- Sore throat
- Sore throat with tender and swollen lymph nodes
- Red rash
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Very thick discharge from nose, sometimes bloody
- Temperature of 101°F and a fever which lasts more than 3 days
- Red and swollen tonsils
- White patches or pus in tonsils
- Small, red spots on the roof of their mouth
Someone with rheumatic fever could experience a few, some or most of the following symptoms:
- Muscle aches
- Swollen and painful joints. In this condition, knees, ankles, elbows, and wrists become swollen and very often the pain migrates from one joint to another.
- A red, lattice-like rash -- typically begins two to four weeks after a bout of strep.
- The most severe complication is the damage it can do to the heart. In more than half of all cases, rheumatic fever can cause scarring of the valves of the heart, and cause a serious condition known as rheumatic heart disease, which will lead to heart failure
- Sydenham's chorea is a temporary nervous system disorder where rapid, jerky, involuntary movements of the body happen. The muscles of the arms, legs, or face tend to twitch uncontrollably.
Some of the chances of developing rheumatic fever are:
- Genetics - Family histories and certain genes make one more prone to rheumatic fever
- Type of strep bacteria - With the type of strep bacteria present because certain elements make one more prone to rheumatic fever than others
- Environmental factors in developing countries - Poor sanitation, overcrowding, and a lack of clean water
The doctor will ask for the following -
- Symptoms and medical history, including a recent bout of strep throat
- Abnormal skin rash and nodules and hard bumps under the skin
- Check heart for abnormalities
- Movement tests to check nervous system dysfunction
- Examine joints for inflammation
- Blood test for strep bacteria
- Run an electrocardiogram (ECG) to check the status of the heart
- Run an echocardiogram to produce images of their heart
Treatment means getting rid of all of the residual group A strep bacteria, treating and controlling the symptoms with any of the following:
- Antibiotics - the treatment can last up to 5 years
- Anti-Inflammatory Treatment to reduce pain and inflammation
- Anticonvulsant Medications to control severe involuntary movements.
- Bed rest until major symptoms like pain, inflammation and fever have passed.