Rheumatic fever

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Rheumatic fever is defined as inflammation of different body parts. The condition can impair the joints, heart, skin and the brain.


The condition is brought about by a reaction to a strep throat infection. It seems to be a response of the immune system. Many individuals with strep throat do not develop rheumatic fever. One is at risk if the following are present:

  • Had several strep infections
  • Untreated strep infection
  • Partially treated infection since the individual did not complete the prescribed course

The condition can affect individuals of all ages, but it typically develops among children.

What are the signs?

Rheumatic fever
Aching and enlarged joints along with aching and swelling that often moves from one joint to another.

The usual indications typically start 2-3 weeks after having a sore throat. The common signs include:

  • Fever
  • Aching and enlarged joints along with aching and swelling that often moves from one joint to another
  • Fatigue
  • Chest pain
  • Reddened, flat, painless and non-itchy rashes on the chest as well as in the arms, legs or abdomen
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Small-sized bumps beneath the skin on the knees or elbows

Management of rheumatic fever

The treatment for rheumatic fever generally involves:

  • Antibiotics to eliminate the strep bacteria
  • Steroids to manage the heart inflammation
  • Aspirin or other anti-inflammatory drug to control the joint pain, fever and inflammation
  • Medications to control the jerking movements
  • Bed rest until the individual has a normal temperature without drugs
  • Several weeks of decreased activity level

It is important to note that rheumatic fever can last from 6 weeks to more than 6 months.

The condition can weaken the heart muscle and affect the pumping ability of the heart. In some cases, the heart valves are also affected.

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