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Can sore throats really damage your heart?

Children aged 5 to 15 are most commonly affected by rheumatic fever. However, both adults and younger children can develop it. Rheumatic fever is uncommon in the United States and other affluent nations, although strep throat is frequently encountered.


Rheumatic heart disease: What is it?


Streptococcus pyogenes (group A streptococcus), a bacteria that can spread easily from person to person in the same way as other upper respiratory tract infections, causes rheumatic heart disease to begin as a sore throat. The majority of strep infections occur in children.


Repeated strep infections can make some people's immune systems attack bodily tissues, including the heart valves, causing inflammation and damage. Rheumatic fever is what is meant by this. Therefore, rheumatic fever-induced heart valve inflammation and scarring lead to rheumatic heart disease.




Studies show that very few parents are aware of the link between childhood cardiac disease and sore throats.

All kids who have a painful throat but no runny nose should visit a doctor as soon as feasible.


Antibiotics used promptly and effectively on a patient with a streptococcal infection usually prevent the onset of rheumatic fever and lessen the chance that the infection will spread to other persons.


Those who have previously experienced rheumatic fever are more vulnerable to further bouts. To prevent rheumatic heart disease, these patients require long-term antibiotic therapy.


Early identification and successful treatment are crucial because there is no vaccination for Group A strep that is available or "anywhere near human research status," according to Cape Town pathologist Dr Andrew Whitelaw.

Seek medical attention right away if you think someone you know has rheumatic fever. Keep an eye out for these signs:


  • Joints that are sore and sensitive, most frequently in the knees, ankles, elbows, and wrists
  • Fever
  • A joint's pain may transfer to neighbouring joints
  • Chest pain 
  • Swelling, heated, or red joints
  • Fatigue 
  • fatigue rash that is flat or hardly elevated and has a ragged edge.
  • cardiac murmur
  • Sydenham chorea is characterised by jerky, involuntary movements of the hands, feet, and face.
  • Unusual behavioural outbursts that accompany Sydenham's chores, such as sobbing or inappropriate laughter
  • a few tiny, harmless pimples under the skin




Group A streptococci can cause a throat infection, which can lead to rheumatic fever. Infections with Group A streptococci of the throat can result in strep throat or, less frequently, scarlet fever.


Rheumatic fever is rarely brought on by Group A streptococcal infections of the skin or other regions of the body.


It's unclear how strep infection and rheumatic fever are related. The immune system seems to be tricked by the germs into attacking normally healthy tissue.


The immune system of the body typically targets germs that cause infections. In rheumatic fever, the immune system incorrectly targets healthy tissue, especially the heart, joints, skin, and central nervous system. The tissues enlarge as a result of this flawed immune system response (inflammation).


When a strep throat infection is promptly treated with antibiotics and all the medication is taken as directed, there is little risk of developing rheumatic fever.


A kid may develop rheumatic fever if one or more cases of strep throat or scarlet fever go untreated.


Who is at risk?


Children and adolescents in low- and middle-income nations are most commonly affected by rheumatic fever, particularly in areas with high rates of poverty and inadequate access to healthcare. The disease is most likely to affect those who live in cramped, unsanitary settings.


The primary heart condition found in pregnant women when rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease are common, rheumatic heart disease causes severe maternal and neonatal morbidity and mortality. Due to the increased blood volume placing additional strain on the heart valves, pregnant women with rheumatic heart disease run the risk of experiencing negative outcomes such as heart arrhythmias and heart failure. It is not unusual for women to get pregnant before discovering they have rheumatic heart disease.


The disease is still widespread in sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, Central, and South Asia, and the South Pacific, among immigrants and older people in high-income countries, especially among indigenous peoples, despite having been eradicated in many areas of the world.


Risk Factors


  • Genes - Some individuals may have one or more genes that increase their risk of contracting rheumatic fever.
  • Specific strep bacteria - Rheumatic fever is more likely to be caused by particular strep bacteria strains than by other strep bacteria strains.
  • Environment - Overcrowding, poor sanitation, and other factors that can let strep bacteria easily spread among numerous individuals are linked to a higher risk of rheumatic fever.




Rheumatic fever can only be avoided by promptly and thoroughly treating scarlet fever or strep throat with an appropriate course of antibiotics.


Dr Vaibhav Saxena
Cardiac Care
Meet The Doctor
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