Rheumatic Heart Disease: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, And Treatment

What is Rheumatic Heart Disease? Learn about its symptoms, risks and treatment. 

Tavishi Dogra
Written by: Tavishi DograUpdated at: Aug 14, 2020 15:27 IST
Rheumatic Heart Disease: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, And Treatment

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Rheumatic heart disease (RHD) is a heart disease in which the heart valves become distorted over time. RHD is caused by a bacterial infection called Streptococcus in the throat. Children and adolescents often suffer from this disease. It can happen any time, but typically, it is between 5 and 15 years of age. The genetic structure of a bacterium is similar to that of the heart muscle. Therefore, the immune system of the body is not able to differentiate between bacteria and heart muscle and instead of bacteria, it attacks the heart muscle. This causes the heart valves to deteriorate over time. Who is at risk from rheumatic heart disease? The risk of rheumatic heart disease is increased if untreated throat or red fever, such as streptococcus infection, is not treated. Children, who have a recurrent sore throat, have a high risk of rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease.

Rheumatic Heart Disease Symptoms

  • Children who complain of joint pain and swelling after a throat infection, in such a situation, seek medical advice soon.
  • Fever.
  • Redness and extreme pain in knees and ankles.
  • Rashes on the chest, back and abdomen. 
  • Difficulty in breathing and chest tightness.
  • Stirring of hands, feet or muscles.
  • The heartbeat gets faster.
  • Weakness.

Rheumatic Heart Disease Diagnosis

People suffering from Rheumatic Heart Disease will either have a throat infection or have had it recently. A blood test can be taken to check for infection. Besides, these tests can be done to identify rheumatic heart disease.

  • Echocardiogram (Echo)
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG)
  • Chest x-ray
  • Cardiac MRI
  • Blood test
heart disease treatment

Rheumatic heart disease treatment: In RHD, either the valve shrinks or it leaks. If there is a condition of shrinkage in the pipe, this disorder is reviewed by the 'balloon valvotomy' technique. If there is more leakage in the pipeline and the lid has become worse, then such a valve is replaced by surgery or needs to be repaired.

Valve replacement: Damaged valves can be replaced with biological valves (bioprosthetic) or mechanical. Mechanical valves are made of metal (last longer) but require extra caution. For example, the patient has to take blood-thinning medicines throughout his life, and he has to undergo regular check-ups. Vascular valves are manufactured from human or animal tissues that work optimally.

Prevention for rheumatic heart disease

heart disease

  • As soon as the problem of throat infection arises in childhood, get the child treated by a doctor promptly. If RHD is detected, such patients need to be injected with penicillin every three weeks on doctor's advice so that there is no repeated infection of streptococcus in the throat.
  • Rheumatic heart disease can be prevented, and the condition can be avoided by treating it with antibiotics or preventing throat infection. To prevent this, it is necessary that the antibiotic given by the doctor is taken on time and do not leave the medicine until the course is completed (if you are feeling better after a few days).

Conclusion: It is seen that rheumatic heart disease usually occurs in Africa, Central Asia, South Asia and developing countries. At the same time, most people are affected by this disease in India's Bihar, Orissa, Jharkhand and our neighbouring country Nepal.

Read more articles on Heart Health