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The Strep Throat Link to Rheumatic Heart Disease

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Caused by the group A streptococcus bacteria, also known as Streptococcus pyogenes, strep throat leaves its victims with sore throat pain that ranks about 197 on a scale of one to ten, along with fever, headaches, fatigue, swollen neck lymph glands, rash, and of course, difficulty swallowing. Who can swallow when you’re in that much pain, anyway?

It’s also known to cause swollen and inflamed tonsils, red spots on the roof of the mouth, and even some pretty upset stomachs and vomiting -- which is certainly not fun when your throat already feels like a mix of sandpaper and hot lava.

While strep throat can -- and does -- occur at any age, strep throat is extremely contagious and very common in children between the ages of five and fifteen.

Chances are that you either know someone who’s had strep throat or you have first-hand knowledge and experience regarding this not-so-wonderful little throat infection and its side effects can be. What you may not know, is that strep throat can lead to some rather serious health complications, including inflammation of the kidneys and rheumatic fever.

Rheumatic fever may lead to a serious heart condition referred to as rheumatic heart disease.

Since most sore throats aren’t caused by strep throat, it’s not uncommon to delay treatment, or once diagnosed, to fail to complete all of the prescribed doses of antibiotic. Even this writer has been guilty of holding back a couple of pills just in case I need them to knock out something else later.

While this is never a good idea, one of the unintended consequences of delaying or under treating strep throat is rheumatic fever. An inflammatory disease, rheumatic fever is caused by primarily by untreated, or inadequately treated, strep throat. While it’s less common, rheumatic fever may also be caused by scarlet fever.

Rheumatic fever causes inflammation. While symptoms may vary, rheumatic fever is characterized by fever, painful or tender joints, hot or red swollen joints, pain that migrates from joint to joint, chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, unusual fatigue, and a flat-raised rash.

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EmpowHER Guest

This article was very informative. I suffer from mitral valve prolapse, with regurgitation, along with other heart disorders. I did not develop the condition until after I had strep so frequently and severely in my 20's that my tonsils were removed at 22. I used to get strep every other month, and was resistant to antibiotics due to the frequency of the infection. Being poor back then, I was never informed of the heart risk, and didn't find relief until a surgeon offered to remove the tonsils pro bono. Thanks for this article! Knowledge is power, and I'm glad to know where the ailment most likely came from.

February 19, 2016 - 8:04am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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