Rheumatic Fever
(Acute Rheumatic Fever or ARF)

Rheumatic Fever Summary
Rheumatic fever is a disease that sometimes occurs after a group A streptococcal infection of the throat. Symptoms and signs include carditis, polyarthritis, Aschoff bodies, rash, Sydenham's chorea, and fever. Treatment for rheumatic fever involves eliminating the bacteria with penicillin, erythromycin, or azithromycin. Further treatment focuses on alleviating the symptoms brought on by the body's immunologic response to the bacteria.
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Rheumatic Fever (Acute Rheumatic Fever or ARF) facts

  • Rheumatic fever is an autoimmune disease which may develop after strep throat infection.
  • The Jones criteria are used to help physicians make the clinical diagnosis of rheumatic fever.
  • Rheumatic fever does not affect all individuals who have had a strep throat infection.
  • Rheumatic fever affects the joints, heart, skin, and nervous system.
  • Antibiotics are used to treat the strep throat infection and may prevent development of rheumatic fever.
  • Rheumatic fever may cause long-term damage to the heart and its valves.

What is rheumatic fever?

Rheumatic fever (acute rheumatic fever or ARF) is an autoimmune disease that may occur after a group A streptococcal throat infection that causes inflammatory lesions in connective tissue, especially that of the heart, joints, blood vessels, and subcutaneous tissue. The disease has been described since the 1500s, but the association between a throat infection and rheumatic fever symptom development was not described until the 1880s. It was associated with scarlet fever (rash caused by streptococcal exotoxins) in the 1900s. Prior to the broad availability of penicillin, rheumatic fever was a leading cause of death in children and one of the leading causes of acquired heart disease in adults. The disease has many symptoms and can affect different parts of the body, including the heart, joints, skin, and brain. There is no simple diagnostic test for rheumatic fever, so the American Heart Association's modified Jones criteria (first published in 1944 and listed below) are used to assist the physician in making the proper diagnosis.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/24/2014

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