Rheumatic Heart Disease

By: Lindsey Bryant & Jaspreet Kaur

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What Is It and Who Gets It?

This heart disease is caused by rheumatic fever, which is caused by inadequate treatment of strep throat or scarlet fever. This causes long-term damage to the mitral or aortic valve. This disease is most often found in children.


Symptoms usually show up 10 - 20 years after the original illness. These symptoms include: chest pain, excessive fatigue, heart palpitations, a thumping sensation in the chest, shortness of breath, and swollen ankles, wrists or stomach.

How Is It Diagnosed?

The child must have recently had strep throat. The doctor will then check to see if the child has any of the symptoms such as, joint pain and inflammation, and listen to the heart to see if there are any abnormalities. They might also require chest x-rays and an echocardium.

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How Is It Treated?

If identifies early enough, then the treatment might only be daily antibiotics until the age of 25-30 to help prevent the the development of infected bacterial endocarditis. Large doses of aspirin to help with joint inflammation. Penicillin can be used to help treat it. If the disease is severe enough then you might need surgery or a balloon catheter to open the valve.

What Is The Prognosis?

If not treated, rheumatic heart disease can cause scarring of the heart valves such as mitral stenosis or aortic stenosis. This can cause destruction and scarring of the valves which might end in heart failure.

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  • 15 million people worldwide have it
  • 300,000 deaths per year
  • Highest rates in children ages 5-14
Rheumatic Heart Disease