Rheumatic Heart Disease





Rheumatic heart disease is a childhood condition that is caused by the occurrence of rheumatic fever. This illness damages the heart by weakening or damaging some parts of it, especially the valves. Rheumatic fever often follows a streptococcal infection such as tonsillitis or pharyngitis that has not been managed properly. The complications of rheumatic heart disease commonly end up in complications like heart valve disorders.

Rheumatic fever usually occurs in children who are aged 5 to 15, but children less than 5 or even some adults can also acquire this disease. In recent years, the incidence of rheumatic fever is fairly uncommon to children in developed countries like the United States and Canada. Thus, the current prevalence of rheumatic heart disease is less than 0.05 in 1,000 people. Contrary to these numbers, the incidence of both rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease remains high for developing countries throughout the world.

Rheumatic heart disease is a preventable condition, and this can be done by preventing the occurrence of rheumatic fever. The incidence of rheumatic fever can, in turn, be averted by the proper management of streptococcal throat infections with the use of appropriate antibiotic therapy.



Throat infections caused by Group A Streptococcus bacteria and are not managed by the proper antibiotic treatment can trigger acute rheumatic heart fever. For people whose systems are predisposed, the immune response (in the form of the rheumatic fever) can occur within two to four weeks after the onset of the throat infection. This immune response can target different parts of the body such as the joints or the heart, and cause inflammation.

The occurrence of rheumatic fever especially during childhood, can lead to the complication of rheumatic heart disease some years after.


Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms of rheumatic heart disease customarily manifest approximately 10 to 20 years after the occurrence of the primary rheumatic fever. While it is the valves that are often affected by this complication, it is the mitral valve that is generally more affected than the aortic valve.

People who suffer from rheumatic heart disease are mainly affected by the defect in the valves of their heart. While this condition can be asymptomatic (meaning it may not manifest any observable signs and symptoms), the person with this disease usually easily gets tired and short or out of breath. When this condition does exhibit symptoms, they could possibly include:

  • Chest tightness and/or pain;
  • Palpitations or erratic heartbeat;
  • Shortness of breath most especially in moments of physical exertion;
  • Difficulty in breathing when in certain positions such as lying down;
  • Dizziness or fainting spells;
  • Waking up from sleep with the feeling of a need to stand or sit up (paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea);
  • Swelling in the chest area;
  • Fever due to valve/heart infection; and
  • Pain and/or inflammation around joints.



The treatment that will be recommended for someone with rheumatic heart disease will depend on the severity of the damage and/or complications. It may include hospitalization for the management of heart failure; long-term antibiotic therapy for infections, especially the ones affecting the heart valves; medication that thins the blood to prevent the occurrence of stroke; and surgical procedures to either open/widen defective valves through the insertion of balloon catheters (balloon valvuloplasty) or to repair or replace affected valves.


Disability Tax Credits for Rheumatic Heart Disease

Rheumatic heart disease direly lessens the ability of an individual to function in his everyday life due to the limitations set by a weak heart. Because of this condition, you may be compelled to file for disability. The Canadian Revenue Agency may grant you a disability tax refund if you are able to secure a disability certification from qualified medical personnel. To help you out in the process, you may enlist the help of one of our friendly customer representatives at HandyTax. Call us for your appointment now!