Definition of Rheumatic Fever

Rheumatic fever is a systemic inflammatory disease that can develop as a complication of untreated streptococcal throat infection. It mainly affects children between the ages of 5 and 15, but adults can also be affected. This condition can cause damage to various organs, particularly the heart, joints, skin, and nervous system.


Rheumatic fever is triggered by an untreated or partially treated infection from a group A streptococcus bacteria, which causes strep throat or scarlet fever. If the initial streptococcal infection is not adequately treated with antibiotics, the bacteria can prompt an abnormal immune response, leading to the development of rheumatic fever.


The symptoms of rheumatic fever can vary, but commonly include:

  • Fever
  • Joint pain and swelling
  • Red, hot, and swollen joints
  • Flat or raised rash on the skin
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Jerky, uncontrollable body movements
  • Abdominal pain


Rheumatic fever can lead to various complications, including:

  • Rheumatic heart disease
  • Heart valve damage
  • Heart failure
  • Arrhythmias
  • Inflammation of the sac surrounding the heart (pericarditis)
  • Joint deformities


The treatment for rheumatic fever primarily focuses on eliminating the streptococcal infection with antibiotics to relieve symptoms and prevent further complications. Additional treatment may involve anti-inflammatory medications to reduce inflammation, management of symptoms, and regular monitoring of the heart.

Long-term prevention of rheumatic fever involves promptly treating strep throat infections with antibiotics to prevent the initial infection from progressing to rheumatic fever.