Rheumatic Fever

Rheumatic fever is an illness characterized by the presence of the same bacteria that causes strep throat, although scientists are still unable to completely pinpoint the cause of the infection itself. It's actually now considered a rare complication of strep throat or scarlet fever, since it's not as common of an infection as it used to be. Usually found in children between the ages of 6 and 15, rheumatic fever can be a very serious illness that can damage the heart valves of the infected patient.

Rheumatic Fever Symptoms

Symptoms of rheumatic fever include: sore throat; headache; abdominal pain; sore lymph nodes of the neck; fever; rash on the upper chest, arms and legs; joint pain and/or swelling; skin nodules; weakness; nosebleeds; shortness of breath; and chest pain. If left unchecked, symptoms can progress in severity, and heart damage may occur.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Rheumatic Fever

It's very hard to diagnose rheumatic fever early on, since its basic symptoms are so similar to strep throat and scarlet fever. There is no specific test to pinpoint the disease, so the only way to diagnose it is through careful evaluation of the patient. Your pediatrician may examine your child's heart, lungs, skin and joints, and may take blood tests and strep tests. A electrocardiogram may also be part of the evaluation.

Rheumatic fever is usually treated by penicillin and/or aspirin or acetaminophen to treat joint swelling and heart damage. These medications will probably be dispensed in low doses, to be taken continuously in order to prevent reoccurrence -- sometimes for life.

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