What is rheumatic heart disease, and how does it affect you?
Rheumatic heart disease occurs when the heart valves are irreversibly damaged. This is usually a result of rheumatic fever. Heart valve damage may begin as soon as streptococcal infection, such as strep throat or scarlet fever, goes untreated or undertreated. An immunological reaction in the body produces inflammation, which may lead to long-term valve damage.
Rheumatic heart disease is caused by a variety of factors.
Rheumatic fever, an inflammatory illness that may damage numerous connective tissues, including the heart, joints, skin, and brain, causes rheumatic heart disease. Inflammation and scarring of the heart valves may occur over time. This may cause the heart valve to constrict or leak, making it difficult for the heart to operate properly. It may take years for this to manifest, and it can lead to heart failure.
Rheumatic fever may strike anybody at any age, although it is most common in children aged 5 to 15. In industrialized nations such as the United States, it is uncommon.
Rheumatic heart disease affects a wide range of people.
Rheumatic heart disease may be exacerbated by untreated or undertreated strep infections. Also, Rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease are more common in children who have recurrent strep throat infections.
What are the signs and symptoms of rheumatic heart disease (Rheumatoid Arthritis)?
The diagnosis of rheumatic heart illness requires a recent history of strep infection or rheumatic fever. Rheumatic fever symptoms vary and usually appear 1 to 6 weeks following an episode of strep throat. The illness may have been too minor to be detected, or it may have disappeared by the time the individual visits a doctor.
How can you know if you have rheumatic heart disease?
A strep infection is common in people with rheumatic heart disease, and they may have had one lately. To check for strep, a throat culture or blood test may be performed.
During a normal physical examination, they may have a murmur or rub. The blood seeping around the damaged valve causes the murmur. When inflammatory cardiac tissues move or rub against one other, the rub occurs.
Tests used to detect rheumatic heart disease, in addition to a thorough medical history and physical examination, may include:
An echocardiogram is a test that examines the heart (echo). The chambers and valves of the heart are examined using sound waves. As an ultrasound transducer is run over the skin covering the heart, echo sound waves produce an image on a screen. Damage to the valve flaps, blood backflow via a faulty valve, fluid surrounding the heart, and a cardiac enlargement may all be seen on an echo. It’s the most effective test for detecting heart valve issues.
An EKG is a kind of electrocardiogram (ECG). This test measures the intensity and timing of the heart’s electrical activity. It may identify cardiac muscle injury and reveal irregular rhythms (arrhythmias or dysrhythmias). To detect electrical activity, little sensors are attached to your skin.
X-ray of the chest. To examine your lungs and determine whether your heart is enlarged, an X-ray may be taken.
MRI of the heart. This is a cardiac imaging test that produces detailed images of the organ. It may be used to examine the heart valves and muscles in greater detail.
Tests on the blood. Infection and inflammation may be detected using certain blood tests.
What is the treatment for rheumatic heart disease?
Treatment is mostly determined by the extent of damage to the heart valves. In extreme instances, surgery to replace or repair a severely damaged valve may be required.
The best therapy for rheumatic fever is to avoid it. Antibiotics may typically cure strep infections and prevent the onset of rheumatic fever. Anti-inflammatory medications may help to decrease inflammation and the risk of heart disease. Heart failure may need the use of additional medications.
Rheumatic fever patients are often given daily or monthly antibiotic treatments, potentially for the rest of their lives, in order to avoid recurring infections and reduce the risk of additional heart damage. Aspirin, steroids, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may be used to decrease inflammation.
Preventing strep infections or treating them with antibiotics when they do arise may help to avoid rheumatic heart disease. Even if you feel better after a few days, it’s critical to take antibiotics as prescribed and finish them as directed.
Keep track of your heart’s status
To keep track of your heart’s status, you’ll need to see your doctor on a regular basis. You may be limited in your activities depending on the extent of your heart injury. To avoid a recurrence of rheumatic fever, your doctor may advise you to take antibiotics for a longer length of time.
Points to remember
- Rheumatic fever is an inflammatory illness. It mostly damages the connective tissues of the body, particularly the heart.
- A person’s risk of strep infection increases if the illness is left untreated or undertreated. Rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease are more common in children who have recurrent strep throat infections.
- The diagnosis of rheumatic heart illness requires a recent history of strep infection or rheumatic fever. Rheumatic fever symptoms vary and usually appear 1 to 6 weeks following an episode of strep throat.
- A murmur or rub may be detected during a normal physical exam in people with rheumatic heart disease.
- The severity of the damage to the heart valves determines the course of treatment. It may even need surgery to replace or repair a severely damaged valve.
- Because rheumatic fever is the cause, the best therapy is to avoid it by treating strep infections with antibiotics.