What is Rheumatic Heart Disease?
Rheumatic Heart Disease is by far the most common acquired cardiac condition mostly found in children throughout the globe. This disease is especially spread in the third world countries where rheumatic fever is still prevalent due to poverty and poor medical research facilities. Rheumatic Heart Disease is a chronic cardiac condition which is caused by rheumatic fever which is perfectly treatable and preventable. This condition is usually caused by group-A strep infection. Strep throat can be treated with a course of antibiotics and thus prevent rheumatic fever. The main complication of a rheumatic fever is how it adversely affects the heart leading to heart failure.
What are Some Facts about Rheumatic Heart Disease?
- Rheumatic Heart Disease is mostly found in third world countries where children still lack proper nutrition and facilities predisposing them to many bacteria one of which is responsible for rheumatic fever and subsequently Rheumatic Heart Disease.
- It is estimated that about 16 million children around the world are currently affected by this disease with quite a few of them requiring frequent hospitalization.
- The areas which are the worst affected are parts of Africa, central Asia, and the interiors of Australia.
What are the Symptoms of Rheumatic Heart Disease?
Children with Rheumatic Heart Disease get frequently ill because of abnormal blood flow resulting in excessive fatigue and severe shortness of breath. Children with this condition may not be able to play like their peers. Rheumatic Heart Disease does not always cause any symptoms but when it does it includes:
- Chest pain
- Heart palpitations
- Dyspnea with exertion
- Dyspnea with rest
- Syncopal episodes.
Children with Rheumatic Heart Disease may need prolonged and frequent hospitalizations to control the symptoms. If not treated appropriately, this disease can prove fatal.
How is Rheumatic Heart Disease Treated?
Once diagnosed with Rheumatic Heart Disease it is important to visit the physician on a regular basis for checkups. The physician will formulate a detailed treatment plan to which the patient should adhere to. Some of the modes adopted for treatment of Rheumatic Heart Disease are:
- Penicillin for prevention of more episodes of rheumatic fever
- Frequent dental checkups
- Frequent echocardiograms to check the function of the heart.
People with more severe forms of Rheumatic Heart Disease may need surgical repair of the valves if they get damaged due to Rheumatic Heart Disease. The patient will also be given anticoagulation medications for treatment of Rheumatic Heart Disease. It is important to note here that it is easy to prevent rheumatic fever and hence if proper care is taken Rheumatic Heart Disease can be absolutely prevented as if you have Rheumatic Heart Disease once it does not go away for the rest of the life. Once you are diagnosed with Rheumatic Heart Disease further episodes of rheumatic fever may worsen the condition and lead to more complications, especially once you have had surgical treatment for Rheumatic Heart Disease. Antibiotics will be required for a prolonged period of time.
How Can Rheumatic Heart Disease be Prevented?
Since Rheumatic Heart Disease is a complication of rheumatic fever hence prevention of rheumatic fever will help prevent Rheumatic Heart Disease. If you are diagnosed with rheumatic fever then make sure that you take the antibiotics diligently as prescribed and go for frequent checkups. The following measures can also be taken for prevention:
- Get prompt treatment for sore throat if it does not resolve on its own in a few days.
- Keep wounds clean and covered
- Wash hands regularly
- Children need to take extra precaution to prevent rheumatic fever
- Maintain an ideal weight as being overweight can put further stress on the heart
- Eat a healthy diet and keep the symptoms of rheumatic fever and Rheumatic Heart Disease at bay.