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Rheumatic heart disease is a complication of untreated rheumatic fever, and it can lead to complications of the heart that can be crippling and often life-threatening. It is common among children and young adults in developing countries, but cases are declining as health care improves around the world.
Causes of Rheumatic Fever
Rheumatic fever is first caused by an infection of streptococcal bacteria, or strep. This disease often affects the throat first, and usually can be treated easily with antibiotics. But if it goes untreated, as is sometimes the case in developing countries, it worsens and becomes a disease called rheumatic fever. Eventually, the streptococcal bacteria will spread to other parts of the body, like the joints, central nervous system and heart. In the heart, the complications of rheumatic fever are known as rheumatic heart disease, and they affect the heart valves. This can ultimately lead to heart failure and death.
Rheumatic fever is easy to treat if it is detected early. The key in developing nations is spreading awareness of the disease and making sure that adequate medical care is available where needed. And when it is detected, treatment is as simple as a basic course of antibiotics to kill the streptococcal bacteria. If a person has already had rheumatic fever, a recurrence is possible and antibiotics may be needed on a regular basis. If rheumatic heart disease has damaged the heart, then surgery may be necessary.
SOURCE: World Heart Federation