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Understanding Rheumatic Fever -- Diagnosis and Treatment

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How Do I Find Out If I Have Rheumatic Fever?

To determine the presence of streptococcus bacteria, your doctor will do a throat culture. This uncomfortable but risk-free procedure involves swabbing a sample of throat mucus for lab analysis. It usually takes 24 hours to grow and analyze the culture. Some doctors also use a rapid strep test that can give results in about five minutes, but it isn't as accurate as the culture.

Your doctor will also give you a complete exam, listening to your heart for evidence of heart valve malfunction -- which will create a heart sound called a heart "murmur" -- and looking for other telltale symptoms, such as arthritis in more than one joint and the small bony protuberances, or nodules, that often appear over the swollen joints.

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Understanding Rheumatic Fever -- the Basics

A rare but potentially life-threatening disease, rheumatic fever is a complication of untreated strep throat caused by bacteria called group A streptococcus. The main symptoms -- fever, muscle aches, swollen and painful joints, and in some cases, a red, lattice-like rash -- typically begin one to six weeks after a bout of strep. In some cases, though, the infection may have been too mild to have been recognized. Rheumatic fever can also cause a temporary nervous system disorder once known as St...

Read the Understanding Rheumatic Fever -- the Basics article > >

What Are the Treatments for Rheumatic Fever?

Appropriate, often long-term, conventional treatment can greatly lessen the risk of heart disease and other health problems associated with rheumatic fever. Alternative treatments serve as complements to conventional care -- helping to ease symptoms of the illness and helping to avoid recurrent attacks.

Your doctor will prescribe rest and penicillin or other antibiotics to get rid of the streptococcal organisms. To prevent a recurrence of the illness, you may be put on a long-term prescription of antibiotics. For fever, inflammation, arthritic joint pain, and other symptoms, you may be given aspirin or an aspirin substitute, ibuprofen or naproxen, and perhaps a corticosteroid. If you have developed rheumatic heart disease, it will also be important to take antibiotics at certain times -- such as before dental procedures or surgery -- which may accidentally introduce bacteria into the blood, to prevent a reoccurrence of heart valve inflammation. If inflammation to the heart is severe, surgery may eventually be necessary to repair damage to the heart valves to prevent heart failure.

 

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Varnada Karriem-Norwood, MD on March 14, 2014

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