Rheumatic Heart Disease Causes and Risk Factors

Rheumatic Heart Disease

Rheumatic heart disease develops when the heart valves are permanently damaged due to rheumatic fever. Heart valve damage can be evident when streptococcal infection, such as strep throat or scarlet fever, is left untreated or undertreated. So it is always better to visit the best cardiology hospital in Hyderabad and ensure the best treatment for Rheumatic heart disease.

Immunological response in the body creates inflammation, leading to long-term valve damage. It is a febrile condition that affects connective tissue, mainly in the heart and joints, and is caused by a group A beta-hemolytic streptococci infection in the throat. 

Rheumatic fever often develops into Rheumatic Heart Disease, a weakening condition. RHD is one of the easiest chronic disorders to avoid. RHD has several implications, including:

  • constant heart damage
  • increasing disability
  • frequent hospitalization and
  • premature mortality, usually by the age of 35 or even earlier.

Rheumatic fever is more frequent in children and teenagers with untreated strep infections. So it is advised to have regular checkups with your cardiologist. In some cases, heart damage symptoms can appear years after the illness and fever have passed.


Rheumatic heart disease directly results from rheumatic fever, affecting connective tissue throughout the body, particularly in the heart, joints, skin, and brain. Inflammation can develop outside the heart (pericarditis), within the valves (endocarditis), or in the heart muscle itself. People with endocarditis may incur irreversible damage to one or more of the four heart valves, leading them to become narrow or leak over time.

The mitral and aortic heart valves are the most commonly affected by Rheumatic fever. These valves control the flow of blood. If the valves fail, blood flows backward into the heart rather than outward. Continuous inflammation leads to heart valve scarring and narrowing.

Repeated strep infections in children aged 6 to 15 put them at risk for rheumatic fever and, as a result, rheumatic heart disease. Even though strep throat is common in the United States, drugs have made rheumatic fever rare in most developed countries.

It is believed that there is a genetic link that makes certain people more susceptible to rheumatic heart disease. Hence genetics may play a role in rheumatic heart disease. However, little is known about the genetic factors influencing whether or not a person develops RHD.

The main risk factor for rheumatic fever is failing to take precautions to avoid strep bacterium infection (as well as other infectious microbes). This includes not washing your hands as often as you should, especially after sneezing, coughing, or eating.


The diagnosis of rheumatic heart disease requires a recent history of strep infection or rheumatic fever. Rheumatic fever symptoms vary and usually appear 1 to 6 weeks following an episode of strep throat. The common Rheumatic fever symptoms are:

  • Fever
  • Swollen and sore joints
  • Under-the-skin lumps
  • A raised red rash, like a lattice, appears across the chest, back, and belly.
  • Chest pain and shortness of breath
  • Uncontrolled arm, leg, or facial muscular movements
  • Weakness

Rheumatic heart disease symptoms can take years following a strep infection or rheumatic fever. But rheumatic heart disease symptoms are different; below are the symptoms experienced by people with heart damage:

  • Chest pain.
  • Fatigue.
  • Heart murmur.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Swelling in the stomach, hands, or feet.

Risks and Complications of Rheumatic Heart Disease

Rheumatic fever might lead to long-term medical concerns if your symptoms worsen. These are some of them:

Mitral stenosis and regurgitation are the most prevalent rheumatic heart valve complications.

Rheumatic heart disease is a leading cause of heart muscle injury. An inflamed heart can weaken the heart’s muscles and impair its ability to pump blood, resulting in heart failure adequately.

Atrial fibrillation, a kind of arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), can lead to blood clots and raise the risk of stroke.

Heart Failure 

It is a severe condition. This can be caused by a heart valve drastically narrowing or leaking.

Bacterial Endocarditis

This infection of the heart’s inner lining can occur when the heart valves have been affected by rheumatic fever.

Pregnancy Complications

Pregnancy and delivery difficulties are one of the Rheumatic Heart Disease complications. Before becoming pregnant, women with rheumatic heart disease should speak with their doctor about their situation.

Ruptured Heart Valve

This is a medical emergency that necessitates heart valve replacement or repair surgery.

Understanding the causes and risk factors of rheumatic heart disease might help you make better health decisions.

The Final Word

If you develop rheumatic heart disease, it’s critical to check your heart regularly with echocardiography and other testing. Because heart valve problems tend to develop over time, these routine checks can help predict whether and when you might need valve replacement surgery. Valve replacement surgery must be done at the right time with the best cardiologist in Hyderabad for optimal results. The goal is to operate before the person’s quality of life deteriorates significantly, but not so early that the artificial valve’s lifespan is exceeded.

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