Rheumatic fever is an inflammatory complication of the Group A streptococcal infection. It affects many parts of the body, especially the joints and the heart. Strep infections are contagious, although rheumatic fever is not. This disease can affect both children and adults.
Causes of Rheumatic Fever
Rheumatic fever is indirectly caused by a preceding streptococcal infection. The infection is usually in the throat, and typically occurs 1 to 6 weeks prior to the onset of symptoms. Rheumatic fever is probably an autoimmune disorder. The antibodies produced to fight the strep bacteria may misidentify some of the body's tissues, leading to damage of the joints or heart.
Signs and Symptoms of Rheumatic Fever
Rheumatic fever can lead to symptoms involving the joints. These include inflammation, pain, redness, swelling and warmth. Often, there is migratory arthritis, with the symptoms progressing from one joint to another. The wrists, elbows, knees or ankles are most often affected. The inflammation that produces the joint symptoms usually subsides within 10 to 14 days without any specific treatment. Other symptoms of Rheumatic fever include fever, fatigue, paleness, appetite loss, general ill feeling. Abdominal pain and chest pain may occur. Frequently, there is a mild skin rash on the chest, back and abdomen. Small, painless bumps just under the skin in bony areas, such as the elbows or knees, frequently develop. Uncontrollable arm and leg movements can occur when the brain becomes involved, producing chorea. Heart symptoms are shortness of breath, and rapid heart beat. Chest pain may occur. There may be fluid retention that leads to swelling, particularly in the legs, and shortness of breath.
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Medical Content Last Updated on 07/12/2008
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