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A Strep throat ignored can damage your heart!

The complications associated with strep throat or scarlet fever can cause rheumatic fever. It is a very serious illness that can cause stroke, permanent damage to the heart, and even death if ignored. This inflammatory disease can develop as a complication of inadequately treated strep throat or scarlet fever that is caused by streptococcus bacteria.

Rheumatic fever is most common in children aging between 5 and 15 years, though it can also develop in younger children or adults. It can cause permanent damage to the heart, including damaged heart valves and even heart failure. Effective treatment can reduce tissue damage, lessen pain and other symptoms and also prevent recurrence of rheumatic fever.


Rheumatic fever symptoms may vary from person to person. Some people may experience many symptoms, while others will have only a few. The symptoms may also change during the course of the disease. Rheumatic fever usually occurs about two to four weeks after a strep throat infection.

The signs and symptoms is mainly due to the inflammation in the heart, joints, skin or central nervous system which could result in the following.

  • Fever
  • Painful and tender joints
  • Pain that migrates from one joint to another
  • Swollen joints
  • Small nodules beneath the skin
  • Chest pain
  • Heart murmur
  • Fatigue
  • Rashes with a ragged edge
  • Jerky, uncontrollable movements most commonly in the hands, feet and face
  • Outbursts of unusual behaviour

Risk factors

Factors that may increase the risk of rheumatic fever include family history that increases the possibility; certain type of strep bacteria that are more likely to cause the disease; and environmental factors like poor sanitation and overcrowding that result in rapid transmission of the disease.


Rheumatic heart disease results in permanent damage to the heart caused by the inflammation of rheumatic fever. The valve between the two left chambers of the heart (mitral valve) is most commonly damaged; other valves may also be affected. The damage may result in valve stenosis and decreased blood flow; valve regurgitation that causes the blood to flow in the wrong direction; and damage to heart muscle resulting in poor pumping function. All this may eventually lead to heart failure.


The treatment of rheumatic fever aims at destroying any remaining streptococcal bacteria, relieving symptoms, controlling inflammation and preventing recurring episodes of rheumatic fever.

Treatment of rheumatic fever includes antibiotics to eliminate the bacteria, anti-inflammatory to reduce inflammation, fever or pain and anticonvulsants to treat involuntary movements.

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