What are the Symptoms of Rheumatic Heart Disease?

What are the Symptoms of Rheumatic Heart Disease?

Rheumatic heart disease (RHD) is a serious condition that can develop as a complication of untreated or inadequately treated strep throat or scarlet fever caused by group A Streptococcus bacteria. Symptoms of rheumatic heart disease can vary based on the severity and stage of the disease. Common symptoms include:

  • Shortness of Breath: Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, especially during physical activity or when lying down.
  • Fatigue: Generalized tiredness, low energy levels, and a feeling of weakness or lack of stamina.
  • Chest Pain: Pain or discomfort in the chest, often described as a sharp or stabbing sensation.
  • Heart Palpitations: Awareness of rapid, strong, or irregular heartbeats, fluttering, or a sensation of pounding in the chest.
  • Fever: Low-grade fever or recurrent fevers, particularly in acute cases.
  • Joint Pain and Swelling: Pain, redness, warmth, and swelling in multiple joints, often migrating from one joint to another.
  • Skin Rash: Red or pink, painless skin rash with irregular edges, typically appearing on the trunk and extremities.
  • Jerky Movements (Sydenham’s Chorea): In some cases, uncontrolled, jerky, purposeless movements of the arms, legs, and face, known as Sydenham’s chorea.
  • Swollen Abdomen: Abdominal swelling or discomfort due to fluid retention, indicating heart failure.
  • Shortness of Breath While Lying Down (Orthopnea): Difficulty breathing or a feeling of breathlessness when lying flat, often relieved by sitting up.
  • Increased Heart Size (Cardiomegaly): An enlarged heart, visible on a chest X-ray or through other imaging techniques.
  • Cough: Persistent cough, especially if accompanied by pink, frothy sputum.
  • Difficulty Swallowing (Dysphagia): Trouble swallowing food or fluids, often associated with advanced stages of the disease.
  • Cyanosis: Bluish discoloration of the skin or lips due to inadequate oxygen supply, a sign of heart failure.

It’s important to note that the symptoms of rheumatic heart disease can be subtle and may not always present in the early stages. If you suspect you or someone else may have rheumatic heart disease or experience any of these symptoms, seeking prompt medical attention is crucial for diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Long-term treatment and management may involve medications to control symptoms, prevent complications, and regular follow-ups with a healthcare provider.

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