Rheumatic heart disease is a specific cardiac condition that is caused when bacterial infections damage the heart valves. Genus Streptococcus is the bacterium responsible for such infections. It is the same bacterium that causes tonsillitis (commonly known as strep throat). When the condition of tonsillitis is left untreated, it may result in bacterial spread, which may have very serious consequences. The bacteria may travel to the heart and cause inflammation, eventually damaging the tissues in heart valves.
Signs And Symptoms
As it is quite clear now, strep throat can be a big alert sign, especially if you are experiencing it for over a couple of weeks. However, in some cases, it appears that strep throat has been thoroughly treated, but in fact, the infection still remains there and it keeps on spreading in different parts of your body. It is very much likely that such bacterial infection will silently reach your heart and cause rheumatic heart disease. Therefore, strep throat infections must be taken very seriously. Even if your throat seems to be working fine, you should keep taking the medicine to completely remove the infection. Some common symptoms that you may experience when you have such heart infections include jerky movements in the muscles, extreme fatigue, chest pain, shortness of breath, and rash with rheumatic fever.
There are several risk factors that may be responsible for increasing the speed of bacterial infection. For example, those with prosthetic valves are highly susceptible to have such problems. Likewise, bacterial infection is more likely to cause heart valve complications in those who are already suffering from congenital heart problems. What is more, there are many underdeveloped countries where no proper treatment is available for strep throat. Therefore, the condition of not treating throat infection is also a major risk factor for rheumatic heart disease in various parts of the world.
Can It Be Prevented?
There is no guaranteed way to prevent such problems, but still, you can do plenty of things to substantially reduce the chance of such bacterial infection and the subsequent rheumatic complications. For example, Personal hygiene can play a very important role in this regard. The basic idea is to eliminate the chance of getting affected with a strep throat. Besides that, if strep throat still occurs, you must seek immediate medical help from experts. Any delay in treatment can be very dangerous for your heart health.
There are several antibiotics that can be used to treat rheumatic heart disease. You may have to take these antibiotics for up to six weeks. However, in case of severe reactions and damage, the doctor may suggest you to go for surgical treatment. But such severe conditions occur only after several years of deterioration of the heart valves. If you take proper care regularly, the condition may not reach that severity level.