Strep Throat and Rheumatic Heart Disease

If your kid gets strep throat, watch out! It can cause a much more serious condition.
Rheumatic heart disease is an inflammatory condition where the valves of the heart are damaged by rheumatic fever which is itself a condition that develops two or three weeks after infection by group a Streptococcus evidenced by scarlet fever or a ‘strep throat' (strep pharyngitis).

Despite the name, the condition that causes rheumatic heart disease, (rheumatic fever) actually has nothing to do with genuine rheumatism. Instead, the name comes from the fact that there are similarities between the symptoms of the condition and rheumatism.

Rheumatic fever is generally a condition that causes inflammation that affects many of the connective tissues of the body including those of the brain, skin and joints as well as those of the heart. In many cases, the damage caused by rheumatic fever is permanent and irreversible.

In developed countries of the West, rheumatic fever and the heart damage caused by it is relatively unusual nowadays. However, in developing countries, rheumatic heart damage or disease is the leading cardiovascular cause of death.

Strep throat can also cause Myocardial ischaemia or ischaemic heart disease. This is a condition caused by reduced blood flow to your heart, a condition that is most commonly caused by arteriosclerosis of the coronary arteries (a narrowing of the artery caused by thickening of the arterial wall).

As myocardial ischaemia generally results from a thickening of the arterial walls which produces restricted blood flow to the heart, it is a condition that tends to worsen with age. This is why heart disease is so often called the 'silent killer.'
Flus, pneumonia and other respiratory diseases can also give your kid cardiomyopathy. This is a term that refers to any form of reduced effectiveness and efficiency of the myocardium, the muscle element of the heart that makes it what it is. People who have cardiomyopathy are at a significantly increased risk of heart arrhythmia, sudden cardiac failure and/or heart attacks.

It can also cause irregular heartbeats. These are called arrhythmias. This is a catchall phrase that is used to describe any heart malfunction which is caused by irregularities or defects in the electrical signals being sent to your heart.

Don't just shrug off any case of strep throat in your family. Be aware it could lead to much more serious complications.