Rheumatic heart disease is a condition that causes permanent damage to the heart valves. It follows rheumatic fever. Rheumatic fever is the body's response to a strep infection of the throat or tonsils or "strep throat." Rheumatic fever may also follow scarlet fever. This is a strep infection of the throat along with a red, rough-feeling skin rash. Rheumatic fever may affect the joints, skin, tissue under the skin, brain, and heart. If it affects the heart, it is called rheumatic heart disease.
Your child may have signs and symptoms that affect the heart, including:
Your child may also have other signs and symptoms of rheumatic fever. These include:
The symptoms of rheumatic heart disease can be like other health conditions. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
The healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and health history, including having rheumatic fever or strep infections. He or she will give your child a physical exam. Your child may also have tests, such as:
Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is. Your child's healthcare provider will likely refer you to a pediatric cardiologist. This is a doctor with special training to treat heart problems in children. Your child may also see other specialists, depending on his or her symptoms.
Children with rheumatic heart disease will need to rest until their symptoms get better.
Your child’s healthcare provider may prescribe one or more of these medicines:
Your child may also need other medicines. Some children need surgery to fix or replace damaged heart valves.
Complications of rheumatic heart disease include:
You can help prevent rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease by knowing what strep throat looks like and getting treatment for it. Your child’s healthcare provider can do a throat culture or rapid antigen detection test (RADT) to see if your child has strep throat.
Children with damaged heart valves from rheumatic heart disease need to keep their teeth and gums clean. They should also have regular dental exams with preventive antibiotics. These steps can help prevent infections of the damaged heart valves.
Your child will need to have regular exams to check on his or her heart. He or she may also have repeat diagnostic tests of the heart.
If your child has had rheumatic fever, the healthcare provider may prescribe periodic antibiotics to take for several years or up to a certain age. The antibiotics keep rheumatic fever from coming back. They also lower the risk for heart damage. It is important that your child continue to take antibiotics as prescribed.
Call your child's healthcare provider if your child has any of the following:
Before you agree to the test or the procedure for your child make sure you know:
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