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Rheumatic Heart Disease

What is Rheumatic Heart Disease?
Rheumatic (roo-MAT-ik) heart disease was formerly one of the most serious forms of heart
disease of childhood and adolescence. Rheumatic heart disease involves damage to the
entire heart and its membranes.
Rheumatic heart disease is a complication of rheumatic fever and usually occurs after
attacks of rheumatic fever. The incidence of rheumatic heart disease has been greatly
reduced by widespread use of antibiotics effective against the streptococcal bacterium that
causes rheumatic fever.
What causes Rheumatic Heart Disease?
Rheumatic fever causes rheumatic heart disease. Rheumatic fever results from an
untreated strep throat. Rheumatic fever can damage the heartvalves. f the heart valves are
damaged! they will fail to open and close properly. "hen this damage is permanent! the
condition is called rheumatic heart disease.
Who is at risk for Rheumatic Fever?
Rheumatic fever is uncommon in the #nited $tates. %owever! rheumatic fever can occur in
children who have had strep infections that were untreated or inade&uately treated.
What are the symptoms of Rheumatic Heart Disease?
$ome of the most common symptoms of rheumatic heart disease are' breathlessness!
fatigue! palpitations! chest pain! and fainting attacks.
Treatment options for Rheumatic Heart Disease
Treatment of rheumatic heart disease may includemedication and surgery. Medication will
aim to avoid overe(ertion. $urgery may be needed to replace the damaged valve(s).
Can Rheumatic Heart Disease be Prevented?
The best way to prevent rheumatic heart disease is to seek immediate medical attention to
a strep throat and not let it progress to rheumatic fever.
Rheumatic Heart Disease
Rheumatic heart disease is a condition of the heart in which its valves are damaged by an episode of rheumatic
fever, an inflammatory disease produced by streptococcal agents immediately after an episode of pharyngitis that
damages the connective tissues of the heart, brain, joints or skin.
Although any person can develop rheumatic heart disease, rheumatic fever is much more common in children
between 5 and 5 years old. !orse yet, the effects derived from a rheumatic fever episode can last for life, and the
most serious of those effects is rheumatic heart disease.
Symptoms Of Rheumatic Heart Disease
"here is a wide variety of symptoms associated to rheumatic heart disease, including cardiac and non#cardiac
manifestations. $ymptoms of rheumatic heart disease may include dyspnea, chest discomfort or pain, severe cough,
orthopnea and edema, all of those related to pancarditis. %ericarditis is another form of rheumatic heart disease, as
well as rheumatic valvulitis &infection of the heart's valves( and respiratory distress.
Pathophysiology Of Rheumatic Heart Disease
As stated above, rheumatic heart disease is caused by rheumatic fever. "o understand the pathophysiology of
rheumatic heart disease, we must first focus on the pathophysiology of rheumatic fever.
)n pharyngitis caused by A#beta#hemolytic streptococcus, those organisms invade the upper respiratory tract and
stick themselves to the local epithelial cells, liberating a variety of harmful en*ymes that damage the tissues. After a
short +#, day incubation period, the invaders precipitate a response from the immune system, which consists in a
swollen throat, high fever, headaches and body discomfort. -n about . percent of the cases, this infection turns into
rheumatic fever. -t is a highly contagious disease, and the patient remains infected for several weeks after symptoms
subside. %enicillin shots or pills can be very helpful in curing streptococcal pharyngitis and also to prevent further
episodes.
)ne of the biggest findings regarding the pathophysiology of rheumatic fever is that the main cause of most virulent
effects of the A#group streptococcus resides in the presence of the / protein in its cellular wall. "his protein is able to
attach itself to the body's connective tissues and degrade their structure.
Prevention And Treatment Of Rheumatic Heart Disease
"he best way to prevent rheumatic heart disease is to prevent its causing disease, rheumatic fever. Avoiding open
e0posure to an infected person is recommended, although due to the nature to streptococcus and their incubation
period sometimes it's hard to detect an infected individual, especially within a school environment where children
learn and play together most of the time. )n infected patients, the best treatment consists on penicillin or other
antibiotics. "he antibiotic treatment is also recommended for people who had suffered from rheumatic fever in the
past, in order to avoid any possible development of rheumatic heart disease as well as other diseases.
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