Rheumatic heart disease refers to the most complex form of rheumatic fever. The term “rheumatic heart disease” directly refers to the damage of a chronic heart valve that can be caused after a bout of acute rheumatic fever. This valve damage can eventually lead to occurrence of a heart attack. This condition is known as ‘acute rheumatic heart disease’.
People who have suffered from rheumatic fever with carditis are most likely to be affected with Rheumatic heart disease. Although, in most cases, rheumatic heart disease is diagnosed 10 to 20 years after being “triggered” by acute rheumatic fever.
Rheumatic heart disease is a lifelong condition and once contracted can hardly be got rid of. So far, the causes of Rheumatic heart disease have only been traced to acute rheumatic fever, but rheumatic heart diseases in children are very prevalent especially between the ages of five to fifteen.
The symptom of Rheumatic fever typically follows after a throat infection. And the other common symptoms that involve general feelings of being unwell; including joint pain and body pain etc.
The Mitral Valve disease is the most common problem seen in Rheumatic heart diseases. In rheumatic heart disease, the mitral valve becomes loaded with heavy deposits of calcium, which disturb the regular functioning of the valve. The heavy calcium deposits cause the valves to not open completely. It is the same calcium deposit that causes the valve to not close completely once it opens completely. This leads to a mitral regurgitation (a “leaky” valve). Which is why, people with rheumatic mitral valves often have both mitral stenosis and mitral regurgitation.
Aortic valve disease is also common among patients with rheumatic heart disease. Aortic valve damage is also caused by calcium deposits that disturb the functioning of the normal valve of the heart.
Treatment of rheumatic heart disease
The treatment of rheumatic heart disease is relatively complex. Anti Inflammatory medications have to be adhered to such as: Aspirin or corticosteroids. Strep throats can be treated with antibiotics. One should be on a look-out for side-effects such as gastritis and salicylate poisoning. The risk and the benefits that com around with alternative treatments must be considered when using aspirin. The treatment of rheumatoid fever may involve a long period of time.
A person who has contracted rheumatic heart disease must go through an aggressive treatment of strep throat (with antibiotics) as a preventive measure for rheumatic heart disease. This can also help limit rheumatic heart disease. It is very important to prevent any more bouts of rheumatic fever. Which is why, anyone with rheumatic fever must be on a preventative or a therapy with antibiotics to prevent a recurrence of the fever.
A thorough physical examination must be followed as a pattern for the treatment of rheumatic heart disease. This must be done annually to detect any change in the heart. A new heart murmur or a change in a previous heart murmur might indicate that heart valve damage has begun. An echocardiogram would certainly be helpful to detect any further damages in the heart or the presence or absence of further damage to the heart valve.
Once diagnosed with rheumatic heart disease, it is highly mandatory for regular monitoring of the condition of the heart valves and the muscles of the heart. This can be taken care by regular examination of the echocardiograms. It may be noted that valve replacements may be required, although not at the very early stages.
Replacements in the valve may occur in specific situation where additional demands are made on circulation, especially in the cases of rheumatoid heart disease during pregnancy.