Rheumatic fever is an inflammatory condition. It involves the connective tissue in the body. The most severe complication is rheumatic heart disease. This condition may permanently damage the heart valves. Valves control the flow of blood to and from the heart.
Rheumatic fever is caused by a specific bacteria that causes strep throat. In this case, the body uses antibodies to fight the infection, but the antibodies also attack the heart.
Rheumatic fever is more common in children and adolescents aged 5-15 years. Other factors that may increase your chances of rheumatic fever include:
Symptoms usually appear 2 to 4 weeks after a strep infection. They may include:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. This will include a careful exam of your heart.
Other tests may include:
The goals of treatment are to:
Antiobiotics are used to treat the strep infection. They may be given by mouth or injection.
To help with joint pain and swelling:
Note: Aspirin can cause serious complications in some children with certain infections. It is best to avoid aspirin or aspirin products for children with infections.
It is important to treat strep throat with antibiotics right away. This will help prevent rheumatic fever. If you or your child has a sore throat and a fever that lasts more than 24 hours, contact your doctor.
American Heart Association
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
Acute rheumatic fever. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116561/Acute-rheumatic-fever. Updated May 31, 2017. Accessed August 14, 2017.
Rheumatic fever. Texas Heart Institute website. Available at: http://www.texasheart.org/HIC/Topics/cond/rheufev.cfm. Updated August 2016. Accessed September 26, 2014.
Robertson KA, Volmink JA, Mayosi BM, et al. Antibiotics for the primary prevention of acute rheumatic fever. BMC Cardiovasc Disorders. 2005;5(1):11.
Last reviewed August 2017 by David L. Horn, MD, FACP
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.