Rheumatic fever is an inflammatory disease, which is a complication of laryngitis due to the Streptococcus bacterial infection. Although it can be experienced by anyone, rheumatic fever tends to attack children aged 5 to 15 years.
Although caused by a bacterial infection, rheumatic fever does not spread to others. However, people suffering from laryngitis can transmit the Streptococcus bacterial infection through a splash of saliva when coughing or sneezing.
In addition to complications from Streptococcus infection in the throat, rheumatic fever can also arise as a complication of scarlet fever disease, which is caused by the same bacteria.
Rheumatic fever can cause permanent damage to the heart valve to heart failure, if left untreated. The treatment is aimed at relieving symptoms, minimizing complications, as well as preventing the recurrence of rheumatic fever.
Rheumatic Fever Causes
Rheumatic fever can occur due to complications from laryngitis that are not handled properly. Laryngitis that can cause rheumatic fever is caused by the Streptococcus bacterial infection group A. When the body is infected by bacteria, the immune system will produce antibodies to fight incoming bacteria.
However, in the body of people with rheumatic fever, the antibodies turn to attack healthy body tissues, especially in the heart, joints, skin, brain, and spine.
This condition is thought to occur due to the similarity between proteins in the group A Streptococcus bacteria and proteins in the body tissues, so that the immune system miscognises the body’s tissues as dangerous enemies.
Rheumatic Fever Risk Factors
Some factors that can increase the chances of rheumatic fever, among others:
- 5 to 15 years old.
- Settled in densely populated neighborhoods.
- Poor environmental cleanliness.
- People with genetic disorders inherited from parents.
Rheumatic Fever Symptoms
Rheumatic fever is a complication of laryngitis due to the bacterium Streptococcus. Symptoms of the disease can appear approximately two to four weeks after infection of the throat. In general, symptoms of rheumatic fever include:
- Joint pain, especially when touched. Ankles, knees, wrists and elbows are the joints most frequently affected. The pain is also moving around.
- The joints appear flushed, noticeably hot, and swollen.
- Chest pain.
- Heart murmur. This symptom occurs because the heart valve does not close properly.
- Lethargic and tired.
- Rashes on the skin with irregular edges. The shape can be flat with the skin or form lumps, but it does not hurt.
- Decreased focus power.
- Spontaneous gestures that cannot be controlled. This symptom is known as Sydenham chorea. Feet, faces, and hands experience it most often.
- Abnormal behavior, such as suddenly laughing or crying for no reason. These symptoms can accompany the appearance of Sydenham chorea.
These symptoms occur due to inflammation that has spread to the heart, joints, central nervous system, or skin.
If not treated correctly, inflammation caused by rheumatic fever can cause permanent damage to the heart. From heart valve leakage, heart valve narrowing, to heart muscle damage. Such heart damage can be experienced by the sufferer in the 10 to 20 years after the first infection.
Rheumatic Fever Diagnosis
Determination of diagnosis of rheumatic fever is based on the history of complaints, direct physical examination, and certain supporting examinations.
If a person has been diagnosed with Streptococcus infection, the doctor can perform additional blood tests to detect the presence of antibodies against these bacteria in the blood. Doctors can also check for inflammation in the body by checking C-reactive protein levels and the sedimentation rate.
In addition, an electrocardiogram (ECG) can be performed by recording electrical signals that take place in the heart. Doctors can see a pattern in the signal that may indicate inflammation of the heart or decreased heart function.
An echocardiogram can also be performed, which is an examination using sound waves to display an image of the heart. The examination can be done to detect abnormalities in the structure of the heart.