Rheumatic fever

A disease that causes inflammation throughout the body, especially in the joints. Now rare in developed countries, it is an important cause of heart disease in developing countries. It is most common in children aged 5–15. Rheumatic fever is believed to be an autoimmune disorder induced by certain strains of streptococcal bacteria, and always follows a throat infection. It can usually be prevented by antibiotic drugs. The disease causes fever with pain, inflammation, and swelling of the larger joints. The heart valves may be scarred, leading to mitral stenosis or mitral incompetence. Involvement of the nervous system may cause Sydenham’s chorea. The condition may be suspected when arthritis moves from joint to joint but may be discovered only after development of heart failure or a heart murmur. Treatment is with penicillin drugs, aspirin or other salicylate drugs, and, in some cases, corticosteroid drugs.


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