If not treated promptly, rheumatic heart disease can lead to lifelong disability or death. Based on WHO data, this disease has even claimed about 291,000 lives each year. So, what is the cause?
Causes of rheumatic heart
The cause of rheumatic heart is rheumatic fever. At first, you have a throat infection caused by the Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria. Transmission of this infection can occur through the droplets of an infected person or surfaces that have been contaminated with the bacteria.
Recurrent infections lead to rheumatic fever, which is an autoimmune inflammatory reaction that attacks many connective tissues, including the heart. As a result, the heart experiences inflammation and scar tissue formation.
This condition can cause narrowing or leakage of the heart valves, which can prevent your heart from functioning normally. Over time, rheumatic heart disease can develop into heart failure.
Throat infections that are not treated properly can increase your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. This condition is more common in children, so make sure your child is protected too.
Symptoms of fever and rheumatic heart
Rheumatic heart disease should not be underestimated. Here are the symptoms of rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart symptoms that you need to be aware of.
· Symptoms of rheumatic fever
Rheumatic heart disease begins with rheumatic fever. Here are some of the symptoms of rheumatic fever that you can identify.
- Sluggish and not feeling well.
- Joint pain or swelling, especially in the knees, ankles, elbows, and wrists.
- Pain that moves between joints.
- Uncontrolled body movements called chorea. This condition usually occurs on the face, hands, and feet.
- There are painless lumps under the skin near the joints.
- The rash appears like a red circle which is usually found on the chest, back, or stomach.
- Heart noise, which is the sound of blood flowing in the heart due to a heart valve that does not open or close properly.
· Rheumatic heart symptoms
After the disease progresses, here are a number of rheumatic heart symptoms that you need to be aware of.
- Chest pain or discomfort.
- Shortness of breath, especially when doing activities or lying down.
- Fast or irregular heartbeat.
- Swelling of the stomach, hands, or feet.
If you or your child shows symptoms of rheumatic heart disease, consult a doctor immediately. Remember that this condition needs to be treated immediately.
Treatment of rheumatic heart disease
To diagnose it, the doctor will perform a blood test and a bacterial culture test using a throat swab method, then the doctor will perform an examination
- Chest X-ray
- Cardiac MRI
If you are diagnosed with rheumatic heart disease, treatment will be adjusted according to how much damage has been done to the heart valves.
Anti-inflammatory drugs can be used to reduce inflammation and lower the risk of heart damage. Meanwhile, antibiotic drugs can help fight Streptococcus bacteria.
However, in severe cases, you may need surgery to repair or replace a damaged heart valve.
Blood thinners may also be needed to reduce the risk of blood clots. If not treated promptly, rheumatic heart disease can lead to heart failure, bacterial endocarditis (infection of the inner lining of the heart), and rupture of the heart valves.
Make sure you do regular check-ups to the doctor to monitor the condition. The doctor may also suggest some activity restrictions that can strain the heart, such as lifting heavy weights or exercising excessively. This will help improve the quality of life for people with rheumatoid arthritis.