It is classified as an illness that is caused by an autoimmune disease as a response to a bacterial infection; the bacteria belong to group A, and are also called strep bacteria. It can cause sore throat and skin sores as well. It is also known to affect the heart, joints, brain and skin. The most common symptoms of acute rheumatic fever are:
- Joint swelling and pain
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Fever; it can be either hot or cold
- Sydenham’s chorea
- Subcutaneous nodules, and
- Heart problems as well
It is most common in 5-15 years old children. It can also develop in adults as well. It is quite simply considered to be one of the most common fevers in 3rd world countries, like India. It can cause permanent damage to the heart, including the valves; this can lead to heart failures and even heart attacks.
It is believed that a bacterial infection somehow tricks the auto-immune system. The bacteria contain protein like those found in certain tissues in the body; this helps the bacteria conceal their true characteristics which the body can’t detect and eradicate. Family history plays a very important role in the factors leading up to rheumatic fever, and often environmental factors are also responsible.
The symptoms, in most cases, disappear in 10 days, but the fever can last several weeks and even several months in some cases. It can cause permanent damage to the heart that can result in extensively damaged valve or heart muscles.
It can be stopped promptly if you follow a full course of appropriate antibiotic and other medications. If ARF is not treated accordingly and just the symptoms are mitigated temporarily it can lead to heart failure either a couple of months later or sometimes even after 10-20 years.