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Rheumatic fever - Complications of rheumatic fever

NHS Choices Medical Reference

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Rheumatic heart disease is a common and potentially serious complication that can arise in cases of rheumatic fever.

Rheumatic heart disease develops when inflammation causes the valves in the heart to become damaged and stiffened, meaning that the normal flow of blood through the heart is disrupted.

It is estimated that around one in three people with a history of rheumatic fever will go on to develop rheumatic heart disease.

Symptoms of rheumatic heart disease include:

  • dizziness
  • chest pain
  • shortness of breath
  • tiredness

It can take many years for these symptoms to develop after a previous episode of rheumatic fever.

Mild rheumatic heart disease can usually be treated with medication, such as ACE inhibitors. ACE inhibitors relax your arteries, making it easier for your heart to pump blood around your body.

Heart failure

In more severe cases of rheumatic heart disease the heart becomes so damaged that it cannot pump enough blood around the body. This is known as heart failure.

Heart failure that occurs in people with rheumatic heart disease may require surgery either to replace a damaged valve with an artificial one or expand the valve with a tiny balloon.

Read more about the treatment of heart failure.

Medical Review: December 03, 2011
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