Rheumatic Heart Disease



It is an ominous disorder. Usually it affects older children, more probably in the five-to-fifteen-years age group. Strange to say, it often commences by affecting one or more joints. But this is really a trap for young players, and is frequently merely the tip of the iceberg.

Although a painful swollen joint is uncomfortable, in many cases it resolves completely. But later on this may inauspiciously lead to fairly severe disease of the heart. In fact, it may not become apparent until well into adult life.



It’s seen less frequently than in years gone by. I think the general improvement in living conditions, housing standards, and probably nutrition have all played a part in reducing its frequency. Social problems and domestic difficulties, with consequent overcrowding and reduced general health, seem to have played a part in occurrence. As these improve, so the incidence appears to reduce.

Rheumatic Heart Disease Symptoms



The child often runs a fever and feels off-colour. Sometimes a large joint, probably the knee, ankle, elbow or wrist, swells up and becomes hot, tender and painful. After a few days it may subside, to jump surreptitiously to another joint. There may be a skin rash, and occasionally little lumps come up around the joint, or at the base of the skull.

As the fever continues, often the heart rate starts to increase. In fact, it may step up to a very fast rate, and this certainly demands urgent attention.



Children will make strange movements. This is more probable in young girls, and is referred to as rheumatic chorea or St Vitus’ dance. Quite out of her control, the hapless child commences making strange grimaces and ridiculous, purposeless movements. Besides facial twitching, there may be similar movements in the limbs or body. The more she tries to stop, often the worse it becomes. It’s very tiring, debilitating and embarrassing, and the whole episode is filled with distressing emotional overtones. I’ve heard that these heart abnormalities can follow on from a simple infection of the throat, in a way similar to certain kidney infections.

Yes. The wily germ called the Haemolytic streptococcus is capable of many mean things, and affecting the kidneys and heart are in his repertoire. It may begin several weeks after the throat infection, and by the time the heart is involved, the initial infection is long since finished. It may be from one to three weeks after, or even more. The chorea may not set in for many weeks, perhaps 15 or more from the initial infection.



Chronic Rheumatic Fever may ensue. By then it’s almost certain the heart is involved. Scarring of the heart muscle or the heart valves may occur, and this is a bad outlook for the future. In fact, some patients develop significant cardiac symptoms many years after a childhood infection.

Rheumatic Heart Disease Treatment



Many doctors believe that it’s wise to try to pr vent trouble from taking place. For this reason, many treat every sore throat with suspicion. What’s more, if antibiotics are prescribed, the doctor likes to make certain the full course is taken, in order to completely knock out the invading germ, and not just stun it. As far as treatment in general is concerned, a routine will be worked out specifically for each patient, and this will be in accordance with the needs of the moment. It may vary in each case. It’s important for best results that the doctor’s instructions be carried out implicitly.

Ideally the child should be served attractive meals that are well-tolerated. A spread of nutritious foods is recommended, for trying to maintain good general health is essential. It will lessen the risk of contracting further infections. A variety of drugs are used. These may include salicylates, the stand-by form of therapy for many years. They still rank with the best antibiotics that may be prescribed, and sometimes the steroids are used for short periods.

It is essential to provide the child with as much tender, loving care and backup emotional care and support as possible. The illness may be a long, tedious, harrowing one, for the patient as well as the parents. A mother can do a great deal by emotionally supporting her offspring. Also, husbands should try to support their wives as much as possible, for frequently they bear the brunt of the deal, being at home and having to supervise the care