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Monday, February 1, 2010

What is Rheumatic Heart Disease and Tips To Control The Disease


Rheumatic heart disease in simple layman’s terms is a condition that is a result of rheumatic fever. Severe cases of, or untreated, rheumatic fever damage the heart valves. Rheumatic fever may develop from an untreated strep (streptococcus) throat infection that travels to the joints and heart, bringing about joint and muscle pains and fever. Other symptoms are possible nosebleeds and abdominal pain. The term ‘rheumatic’ comes from the joint pain caused by the infection, the main symptom of rheumatic fever.

Rheumatic fever primarily affects children between ages 6 and 15 years and occurs approximately 20 days after strep throat or scarlet fever. In up to a third of cases, the underlying strep infection may not have caused any symptoms.

Rheumatic heart disease develops in about 3% of untreated strep throat infections in the United States according to the National Institute of Health. Children are most likely to get strep infection and so more likely to be stricken with rheumatic heart disease.

It’s unlikely that people in the western hemisphere will develop rheumatic fever through a strep infection. The infection is treated effectively with antibiotics. Still, if raised temperature, irregular heartbeat, nodes under the skin, abdominal pain and other symptoms develop after a strep infection, your doctor needs to have lab tests done to check for rheumatic fever.

In Australia from 2004 to 2006 there was a baffling jump in the amount of rheumatic fever cases among the Australian Aborigines. Alarmed doctors launched the world’s most advanced study of rheumatic heart disease. Those doctors are working with the Australian National Heart Foundation to develop a vaccine to end rheumatic fever.

Rheumatic fever is a problem among some populations in New Zealand, and the treatment there is monthly penicillin shots ten years. A famous rugby player who had developed rheumatic heart disease as a child, admitted to stopping his monthly shots. The symptoms of the disease returned to him as an adult. Fortunately, he knew what the problem was and how to get treatment. Others, people that have little or no access to health care, simply endure the fever attacks and become victims to heart valve failure.

Rheumatic fever is a disease born of poverty, according to the World Heart Federation in Geneva, Switzerland. Even though rheumatic fever is easily averted with antibiotics, many young people do not have access to the health care that would keep their heart valves healthy and extend their lives free of rheumatic fever.

Though there is no cure for rheumatic heart disease, penicillin will treat rheumatic heart disease symptoms. It also treats the contraction of the heart, which may damage heart valves. The incurable disease requires patients to continue with the penicillin injections. Some doctors say this treatment will have to continue for the rest of the patient’s life rather than the ten year treatment used in New Zealand. Untreated rheumatic fever will cause pain and permanent heart valve damage. Surgery may be necessary to prevent fatal heart failure. More research is necessary to find more and more effective treatments for rheumatic heart disease.

Tips
  1. Step 1

    Take all medications prescribed by your physician. If your doctor prescribes antibiotics, take all the doses prescribed to avoid any complications.

  2. Step 2

    Give your physician a complete medical history including all recent illness. This enables your physician to choose a treatment plan which works best for you.

  3. Step 3

    Find out what exercises and over-the-counter medications can help to control symptoms resulting from rheumatic heart disease.

  4. Step 4

    Purchase over-the-counter aspirin tablets to help with the joint inflammation that may occur. You must check with your doctor prior to taking these pills to ascertain that there are no contraindications in taking these medications.

  5. Step 5

    Be aware that your doctor my prescribe antibiotics and steroids during the infection's acute stages. Once this stage has dissipated, you may need to continue on antibiotics to prevent any reoccurrences of this disease.

  6. Step 6

    Prepare for possible surgery if your heart valves have been damaged to a point where they have impaired function. Sometimes a leaking valve can be repaired, but often the entire valve needs to be replaced to remedy the problem.

  7. Step 7

    Find a support group of others with rheumatic heart disease. By doing so, you receive emotional support from others in a similar situation and can share and increase your own knowledge base about coping with rheumatic heart disease.

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