Rheumatic Fever

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In 1685, Thomas Sydenham, a prominent physician, documented a condition that he called "chorea" (from the Greek word “dance”) to describe patients that exhibited an involuntary movement and twitching of the limbs. Although the primary focus of his study was rheumatism, he ultimately connected this condition with infectious diseases such as scarlet fever and what he called "rheumatism of the heart". He noted that his patients were exhibiting acute pain, redness and swelling in one or more joints, subcutaneous nodules over the knee and elbow joints, an uncontrollable jerking or flailing of the limbs and in many cases, a "weakening of the heart."1 What he was describing has come to be known as Rheumatic Fever. However, the association between strep throat infections and rheumatic fever had not been made until the late 1800’s. Then in 1944, T. Duckett Jones, MD published criteria by which the condition became defined. Rheumatic fever gets its name from its most common symptoms – rheumatism (inflammation of the joints) and fever. Before antibiotic drugs were developed in the 1940’s, rheumatic fever with its resulting valve damage, was a leading cause of heart disease throughout the world.2
Rheumatic fever is a condition which arises as a complication of an untreated or under-treated strep throat infection. It usually affects young people between 5 to 15 years of age. The initial signs of rheumatic fever usually occur within 2-3 weeks following a streptococcal infection. The patient appears to have recovered from the sore throat but suddenly begins to show other symptoms. Common symptoms include fever and pain with swelling in major joints such as the elbows, wrists, knees or ankles. Nodules may develop under the skin over bony areas ...

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