Risk factors, symptoms, treatment and more

Rheumatic heart disease is a serious and potentially fatal condition in which the heart valves are damaged. This damage can occur after one or more episodes of rheumatic fever. This refers to an autoimmune response to group A streptococcus (group A streptococcus) bacteria.

Group A streptococcus can cause infections such as strep throat or scarlet fever. These infections can trigger inflammation in the body, including the heart and its valves. Left untreated, it can permanently damage heart valves.

Researchers estimate that more than 33 million people had rheumatic heart disease in 2015. They add that the condition leads to around 320,000 deaths each year.

Keep reading to learn more about rheumatic heart disease, including its causes, symptoms and treatment.

Rheumatic heart disease is a condition that affects the heart valves🇧🇷 Specifically, the valves are damaged due to inflammation in the heart tissue.

Heart valves are important to ensure that blood flows through the heart as it should. They also prevent backflow of blood. Therefore, damage to the heart valves can cause serious health problems.

Rheumatic heart disease can start as a throat infection from Streptococcus pyogenes — a type of group A Strep bacteria.

Group A streptococcal infections can easily pass between people in the same way as other upper respiratory tract infections. For example, they can spread through respiratory droplets when a person coughs or sneezes.

If a person has an infection with group A streptococcal bacteria, they are at risk of developing rheumatic fever, which can progress to rheumatic heart disease. People are more at risk of getting these infections in large, crowded places, such as schools, day care centers, or colleges.

Anyone can develop rheumatic fever, but it is more common in children. 5 to 15 years🇧🇷 It is very rare in children under 3 years of age, as well as in adults.

A person who has had rheumatic fever before is more likely to develop it again if they get strep throat or scarlet fever.

rheumatic heart disease usually affects people from low- or middle-income countries who have inadequate access to health care.

Symptoms of rheumatic heart disease can vary depending on the severity and extent of heart valve damage. In some cases, there may be no symptoms, while in others, they may include🇧🇷

Some symptoms of rheumatic fever can include:

  • fever
  • joint pain, especially in the knees, ankles, elbows, and wrists
  • fatigue
  • jerky, uncontrollable body movements

Learn more about rheumatic fever symptoms here.

Doctors use a combination of a person’s medical history, physical exam, and other tests diagnose rheumatic heart disease.

The doctor will ask about any previous strep infections and whether the person has ever had rheumatic fever. They also ask about any symptoms and family history of heart disease.

During a physical exam, your doctor will check for signs of heart valve damage, such as a heart murmur. They can also listen to the lungs for signs of congestion.

They may order tests such as:

  • a chest x-ray to check for an enlarged heart
  • an electrocardiogram, which measures the heart’s electrical activity, to look for evidence of damage to the heart valves
  • a blood test to see if the body is producing an atypical immune response or inflammation
  • an ultrasound of the heart

There is no cure for rheumatic heart disease, and damage to heart valves can last a lifetime.

People with severe rheumatic heart disease often need surgery to replace or repair damaged heart valves.

Depending on the severity of the heart damage, they may also need medication to treat heart failure or heart rhythm abnormalities. They may need medications to thin the blood and reduce the risk of blood clots.

People may not know they have rheumatic heart disease until they have heart problems later in life. This is because the initial symptoms can be mild or non-existent.

However, rheumatic heart disease can lead to serious complications, such as🇧🇷

People with rheumatic heart disease should see their doctor regularly to monitor the condition of their heart and ensure that it is as healthy as possible. They should also take any medication recommended by the doctor.

Individuals with rheumatic heart disease should avoid strep throat or scarlet fever. They can do this by washing their hands frequently and avoiding close contact with people who are sick. Furthermore, doctors can prescribe antibiotics to help prevent group A streptococcal infections.

It is also important for people with rheumatic heart disease to eat a nutritious diet, get enough exercise and rest, and avoid smoking, if applicable. These lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of complications and help maintain heart health.

Rheumatic heart disease disproportionately affects women. The risk of developing the disease is twice as high as in men.

Rheumatic heart disease is the leading cause of maternal cardiac complications in pregnancy. Pregnant people with the condition are at risk of developing complications such as cardiac arrhythmias and heart failure. This is because the increased blood volume in the heart can increase pressure on the valves.

It is also not uncommon for people not to know they have rheumatic heart disease until they become pregnant.

Rheumatic heart disease is a condition that affects the heart valves. It occurs due to throat infections or scarlet fever. The condition can lead to serious complications later in life.

There is no cure for rheumatic heart disease, but people can control it with medication and surgery. Individuals with rheumatic heart disease should see their doctor regularly and take the necessary medications. They should also take precautionary measures to avoid getting group A streptococcal infection.

Risk factors, symptoms, treatment and more

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