Rheumatic Heart Disease is caused by rheumatic fever attacks. Rheumatic fever attacks are the direct result of untreated or inadequate treatment of a strep throat infection. This throat infection (streptococall pharyngitis) is a very contagious infection and spreads very easily from one person to another.
It is also a very common throat infection, in matter effect it is one of the most common throat infections among children with 37 % of all throat infections. Mostly the diagnosis for strep throat infection will be made based on the presented symptoms.
Symptoms can be a fever, sore throat and infected lymph nodes. However, in some case a diagnosis is only confirmed after laboratory test come back positive for the strep bacteria. If the throat infections remains untreated or does not get completely cured the infection can turn into rheumatic fever.
The strep throat infection is best treated with an antibiotic treatment. The antibiotic will fight off the streptococcal bacterium which is the instigator of the infection. If treated unsuccessfully it usually takes two to three weeks after the first signs of the strep throat infection appeared, for rheumatic fever to flair up.
It is estimated that approximately 3% of untreated or inadequately treated strep throat infections lead to rheumatic fever cases. Rheumatic fever can be treated by helping to reduce the inflammation with drugs such as aspirin or corticosteroids.
The recommendation is to subscribe high doses of aspirin 100 mg per kg per day. Once a person has had rheumatic fever attacks her or she will be more prone to future attacks when suffering from another strep throat infection.
The seriousness of rheumatic fever should not be under estimated as it can cause damage to the heart valves, which means that the heart valves will fail to function properly. The opening and closing of the heart valve will no longer function as it should be.
In addition, the rheumatic fever can cause damage to the rest of the heart and even the membranes. So rheumatic fever can turn into a serious long term, and irrevocable problem. When this is the case, a patient will be diagnosed with rheumatic heart disease.
In the past rheumatic heart disease was one of the most serious heart problems in children and young adults. Rheumatic fever is seen quite often in children aged 5 to 15 years. Only about 20% of first time rheumatic fever occurrences happen in adults. If rheumatic fever has turned into rheumatic heart disease you will see the following symptoms:
• Chest pains
• Out of breath
There are treatments available in the form of medication and in severe cases via surgery. Medication will be used to slow down the physical performance of the heart. Most often steroids will be used as it may help to prevent even more damage to the heart tissue or consequently other heart problems.
The treatment for rheumatic heart disease should also include injections of long-acting antibiotics, preferably given each month for five years. This advice is already given for a person who has only suffered from a rheumatic fever attack once.
A doctor might also recommend having a low dose of antibiotic daily, which should help prevent the rheumatic fever from reoccurring. However, if the damage is too severe surgery might be needed in order to replace valves that are too damaged.
As always with medical problems, prevention is better than cure. The only way to prevent rheumatic heart disease is to prevent rheumatic fever attacks. Rheumatic fever attacks can only be prevented if a strep throat infection does not get overlooked but gets the required treatment.
A full antibiotic treatment of a strep infection is therefore crucial once infected with the strep bacteria. However, as mentioned above this infection is very contagious and spreads easily between family members, colleagues or among children in schools or kindergartens.
Therefore, once a person is infected and suffering from a strep throat infection, high hygiene standards are very important to help prevent the spreading of this infection. High hygiene standards start with regular hand washing with antibacterial soap, but be sure not to overlook the fingernails.
Many bacteria live happily for a number of hours or sometimes even days under a person’s nails. Scrubbing the nails on a daily basis will help to kill these bacteria.
Every person brings his or hand to her face unknowingly several times a day. If a hand or finger which carries the bacteria goes into the mouth, nose or ear this will allow the bacteria to find its way into a person’s body and develop into an infection.
Only if at that early stage of the infection the bacteria are killed off by antibiotics can it be prevented that the strep throat infection turns into a serious infections that might possibly lead to rheumatic fever and possibly even into rheumatic heart disease.