Rheumatic fever is an inflammatory disease caused by Group A streptococcal infection. It is an illness related with abnormalities of synovial joints. Synovial is a viscous lubricating fluid secreted by the membrane lining joints and tendon sheaths etc. Rheumatic fever is also associated with the development of heart valve disease and other heart disorders which can also affect joints, skin, and even brain. Most of the acquired heart diseases are due to the consequences of rheumatic fever. Rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart diseases can interfere with the physical and mental development of children. Children affected by this fever may become dull, weak and ultimately bedridden and may also have an early death.
Symptoms of rheumatic fever
1) The symptoms of rheumatic fever start with redness and pain in the throat. The sore throat lasts for about ten days and fever recurs along with various signs of involvement of the heart, joints and sometimes brain.
2) The common complaints accompanying fever are muscle pain, malaise, swelling, redness in joints, fatigue, abdomen pain, vomiting, chest pain, nose bleed, restlessness, difficulty in breathing, pneumonia, difficulty in speaking, tremors, etc.
3) Movements of the involved joints become restricted. Usually the bigger joints like the wrist, elbow, ankle and knee are affected restricting movements. Swelling may migrate from one joint to another.
4) Some patients may develop rashes on the trunk and redness at the periphery. Some may also develop nodules on the skin, usually bony prominences like elbow, skin and spine.
5) Generally, rheumatic fever appears somewhere between the first and the fifth week after an infection has been caused by the group A streptococcus bacteria when the above symptoms are noticed.
Consequences of rheumatic fever
1) Rheumatic fever affects heart. This fever may subside for sometime after treatment but may recur after a few weeks. Each attack can damage heart further.
2) Rheumatic fever causes an inflammation of heart muscles called corditis valvulitis which causes fibrous thickening and adhesions. Damages in the valves result in disruption of blood flow.
3) When the blood flow is affected serious outcomes like congestive heart failure and other problems occur.
4) Rheumatic fever patients struggle to breathe while they work and at an advanced stage they become breathless even at rest.
5) After a few weeks of the rheumatic fever, the patients may develop chorea or a purposeless jerky movement. Some may develop slurred and disorganized speech. Their muscles become weak and tense which makes their walking awkward. They may make involuntary or spasmodic movements of the body.
Medical world, even today, does not know how to reduce the pace of the damage caused to heart valves due to rheumatic fever. Hence, it is better to nip this problem in the bud and promptly treat diseases caused due to streptococcal infections with the timely intake of antibiotics and check further damages.