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Rheumatic heart disease (RHD), Risk Factor, Symptoms, Effects, Causes, Diagnosis, Complications, Prevention and Treatment of Rheumatic heart disease (RHD)

Rheumatic heart disease (RHD)

RHD is characterized as an acquired heart disease normally found in children in number of countries all over the world. It is mostly found in developing countries. It is estimated that rheumatic fever and its related problems falls disproportionally in the developed countries especially in those areas where poverty is widely spread.


RHD as explained above is caused by rheumatic fever is a chronic condition but it can be controlled and prevented easily. The major cause of the rheumatic heart disease is the fever cause by the infection of group A streptococcal. Treatment normally include the strep throat with the help of antibiotics. The antibiotics also reduces the risk of contraction caused by the rheumatic fever.

Symptoms of RHD

RHD is normally not characterized by regular symptoms but if the symptoms appear they may be:

  • Severe chest pain
  • Condition of breathlessness
  • Problems during breathing especially when lying down a condition known as orthopnoea
  • Sudden wake up from sleep and desire to stand up or sit condition known as paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea
  • Oedema characterized by swelling
  • Syncope refers to fainting
  • Sudden stroke
  • Infection in the heart valves leads to infection


It is commonly thought that RHD normally develops from a single bout of the known acute rheumatic fever (ARF) but it is associated with episodes of ARF. ARF usually attacks in the early age such as in between 5 to 10 years. RHD has the ability to damage any part of the heart including heart itself. Additionally it can damage heart valves, heart muscles and lining, but it is mostly known to affect the heart valves especially of the left side. Stopping recurrent episodes easily prevents the RHD.

(RHD) Affects far-off Aboriginal communities

In Australia it was observed that the RHD normally affects Torres Islander and aboriginal communities. According to one estimate the risk of death due to RHD in these communities is 20 times more than other Australian communities. Additionally the Maori and Pacific Islands are also at high risk and the disease is also found excessively in those people who have migrated to Australia because of their low income rate and where the signs and symptoms of RHD are prevailing due to poverty.
Risk factors of RHD

The common risk factors include poverty, reduced access to the medical centers and overcrowding. You need to stop the recurrent attacks of ARF, this can only be done if you diagnose the signs of ARF. After diagnosing treatment may help to reduce the effects of RHD.
Rheumatic fever explained

It is unavoidable if you are not taking antibiotic because the acute rheumatic fever is caused by the throat infection from streptococcus of group A. it is known that in susceptible people if it is left untreated then symptoms starts developing after 2 to 3 weeks of infection. It may target the skin, brain, joints, and valves of the heart. It can also cause inflammation. If ARF left undiagnosed then it cause failure to prevent the RHD.

rhemRHD affects heart valves

Heart perform as a double pump with its four chambers. The chambers are sealed with the heart valves. These valves functions as to open and close only in a single direction this will prevent the backflow of blood. RHD is known to affect the valves and cause sever damage. It is observed that the damaged heart valves lose their ability to open and close normally. This will surely disturb the normal flow of the blood. If it is left untreated then the condition of the valves become worsen.


In severe case it leads to heart failure which is characterized by the loss of hearts ability to pump blood normally. The streptococcus cause the heart to enlarge. The other complications cause by the RHD are infection of the heart valves known as infective endocarditis and stroke normally cause by the blockage due to clots formed in the enlarged heart or in damaged heart valves. The consequences are more dangerous because these clots can block the flow of blood in the vessels and in the brain.
Diagnosis of Rheumatic heart disease

The common diagnosis may include:

  • The first thing your physician can do is the physical examination. The specialist suggest you the heart murmur but always keep in mind that many patients of RHD have no signs and symptoms for heart murmur
  • The complete medical history which include the reports related to the past ARF or any kind of streptococcus infection.
  • Chest X-ray is advisable to get insight of the heart i.e. to check the enlargement and fluid inside the lungs
  • ECG will be helpful to check the normal heart beat and related issues such as whether the abnormal heart beat is due to the enlargement of the heart or due to arrhythmia i.e. abnormal heart rhythm
  • The damaged heart valves can be easily check out with the help of echocardiogram. This is proved to be the most fruitful test for RHD.


Treatment of Rheumatic Heart Disease

The treatment depends on the conditions of the patients normally the treatment may include:

  • Admit the patient to the hospital so that doctors treat the heart failure
  • Antibiotics are advisable to get out of the infections
  • Medications are advisable which help in thinning the blood to reduce the effects of stroke and clot
  • The balloons may be inserted to open the closed valves
  • In extreme cases the heart valve surgery will be done to repair or replace the exposed and damaged heart valves.


Complications of rheumatic heart disease

The medical treatment normally needs to reduce the risks of complications that may arises due to RHD.

  • Regularly visit the cardiologist
  • Keep you up to date with the vaccinations related to flue and influenza
  • Use regular antibiotics
  • Regular presentation to diagnose the disease early on


Prevention of RHD

RHD is caused by ARF people having ARF are at high risk of RHD. Diagnose the ARF and take antibiotics to minimize it. The antibiotics are the only prevention of RHD.

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