Rheumatoid fever is a condition resulting from untreated strep infections, such as strep throat. It is not an infection itself, but a complication that occurs when the infection is not properly treated. When the body senses strep infections, natural defense systems send antibodies to fight the infection.
Unfortunately, sometimes these antibodies get carried away and attach joint and heart tissue. These attacks can cause tissue damage and swelling. This is particularly dangerous when tissue damage and scarring occur at the heart valves. This can narrow the valves, causing the heart to work harder.
Who is at Risk?
Children between the ages of 5 and 15 are at a higher risk. But anyone who has a strep infection is at risk of rheumatic fever if the infection is left untreated or is not treated properly.
If you have a fever and sore throat that does not go away after a couple days or continues to get worse, it may be a strep infection. Strep is diagnosed by taking a throat culture and sending it to the lab for analysis.
If the test comes back positive from strep bacteria, antibiotics must be taken for the entire time prescribed. Most people feel better after a couple days and don’t feel like they need to continue the antibiotics.
The sore throat may be gone. But discontinuing the antibiotics early puts you at a greater risk for rheumatic fever. The bacteria continues to multiply and grow, causing damage to other parts of the body.
Signs and Symptoms of Rheumatic Fever
After a strep infection, symptoms of rheumatic fever usually appear within 1 to 6 weeks. Most people experience symptoms in varying degrees of intensity.
• Abdominal pain or loss of appetite
• Joint pain – especially in the knees, wrists, elbows and ankles
• Skin nodules – bumps under the skin on elbows and knees
• Heart problems – shortness of breath or chest pains
• Sudden nosebleeds
• Rash on abdomen, chest, upper arms and legs or back
• Muscle weakness or tiredness with involuntary jerking movements in hands and feet
Additional tests may be helpful in making a diagnosis. Blood tests check for ongoing strep infection or inflammation, or an electrocardiogram (EKG) and a chest x-ray.
Treatment for rheumatic fever often depends on the severity of the condition. Initially, the goal is to reduce the inflammation in the joints and tissues and to reduce pain.
In addition to chiropractic work, additional anti-inflammatory medications may be necessary. Antibiotics may be given to help prevent strep infections from returning.
In severe cases, lifelong antibiotics and inflammatory treatment may be necessary.
If you have had a recent strep infection and are experiencing some or all of the symptoms, contact us to schedule an evaluation.