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Rheumatic Fever

Rheumatic fever is an inflammatory condition that involves the connective tissue in the body. The most severe complication is rheumatic heart disease that may permanently damage the heart valves, which control the flow of blood to and from the heart.


Strep throat or group A Streptococcus pharyngitis causes rheumatic fever. In this case, the body uses antibodies to fight the infection, but the antibodies also attack the heart.

Symptoms of Rheumatic Fever

Symptoms usually appear 2-4 weeks after a strep infection. They may include:

  • Pain and swelling in large joints
  • Fever
  • Weakness
  • Muscle aches
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Hacking cough
  • Circular rash
  • Lumps under the skin
  • Abnormal, sudden movements of arms and legs

Diagnosis & Treatment

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history and perform a physical exam will be done. You may undergo tests including:

  • Blood tests
  • Throat culture
  • Echocardiogram
  • Chest X-rays
  • Electrocardiogram

The goals of treatment are to:

  • Kill the strep bacteria
  • Treat the inflammation caused by the rheumatic fever
  • Treat any cardiac problems
  • Prevent future cases of rheumatic fever


You may be given penicillin or other antibiotics to treat the strep infection, as well as other medications to help with joint pain and swelling:

In some cases, the inflammation can be severe. You may have to rest for a period of time.


Call 434.243.3675.


Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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