Rheumatic Heart Disease
Rheumatic heart disease is a condition in which the heart valves are damaged
by rheumatic fever.
Rheumatic fever begins with a strep throat from streptococcal infection.
Rheumatic fever is an inflammatory disease than can affect many of the
body's connective tissues — especially those of the heart, joints,
brain or skin. Anyone can get acute rheumatic fever, but it usually occurs
in children five to 15 years old. The resulting rheumatic heart disease
can last for life.
What are the Symptoms of Rheumatic Heart Disease?
Symptoms vary greatly. Often the damage to heart valves isn't immediately
noticeable. A damaged heart valve either does not fully close or fully open.
Eventually, damaged heart valves can cause serious, even disabling, problems.
These problems depend on how bad the damage is and which heart valve is
affected. The most advanced condition is heart failure. This is a heart
disease in which the heart enlarges and can't pump out all its blood.
How can I Prevent Rheumatic Heart Disease?
The best defense against rheumatic heart disease is to prevent rheumatic
fever from ever occurring. By treating strep throat with penicillin or
other antibiotics, doctors can usually stop acute rheumatic fever from
People who have already had rheumatic fever are more susceptible to attacks
and heart damage. That's why they're given continuous monthly
or daily antibiotic treatment, maybe for life. If their heart has been
damaged by rheumatic fever, they're also at increased risk for developing
bacterial endocarditis, an infection of the heart's lining or valves.