What is Rheumatic Heart Disease?
- Rheumatic heart disease (RHD) refers to a group of short-term, i.e. acute and long-term, i.e. chronic heart disorders which occurs as a result of a rheumatic fever.
- One common result of the rheumatic fever is heart valve damage that may lead to valve disorder.
- Acute rheumatic fever occurs in children between the ages of 5 and 15 and the adolescents due to the vulnerable immunity system.
- Currently, at least, 15.6 million people are estimated to be affected by RHD. A significant number of these people require repeated hospitalization and often expensive heart surgery in the next 5 to 20 years.
- The worst affected areas with RHD are sub-Saharan Africa, the Pacific, South-Central Asia and the indigenous population of Australia and New Zealand.
What are the causes of Rheumatic Heart Disease?
- RHD is a chronic heart condition which is caused by the rheumatic fever that can be prevented and controlled.
- The rheumatic fever is caused by a preceding group called a strep throat (streptococcal) infection. About 60% of patients with rheumatic fever may develop some degree of subsequent heart disease.
- In a susceptible patient, the throat infection triggers problems that lead to the destruction of their heart valve and may also affect the kidney. In contrast, the heart valve once damaged is very serious as it is very difficult to rectify.
- Apart from the heart valve, the rheumatic fever also affects the myocardium (muscles of the heart), pericardium (outer covering of the heart) and the valves that are present in the endocardium.
What are the Symptoms of RHD?
People who have rheumatic heart disease sometimes end up very sick because the blood stops flowing right way. This makes them very tired and make them feel short of breath. Although RHD does not always cause symptoms, some of the symptoms include :
- Heart palpitations
- Chest pain
- Breathlessness on exertion
- Waking from sleep with the need to sit or stand up
- Breathing problems when lying down
- Fever related to infection of the damaged heart valves
- People with RHD may not be able to do the things like playing sports, hunting, walking or going fishing. Here it is important to note that once the problem begins and is diagnosed, then it requires treatment right away, otherwise the problem will worsen over time to an extent that life will become unbearable.
What are the complications associated with RHD?
- The heart is a double pump with four chambers. Each of the chamber is sealed with a valve that open and close in one direction only, so that the blood cannot flow backwards.
- The rheumatic heart disease often involves damage to the heart valves. Typically, the damaged heart valves cannot open or shut properly.
- This interferes with the proper blood flow through the heart. Without treatment, this damaged valve may continue to deteriorate.
- Complications associated with RHD include heart failure, meaning the heart will be unable to pump blood effectively and the strain will cause the heart to enlarge.
- Other complications include, infection of the damaged heart valves (infective endocarditis) and stroke caused by clot formation in the damaged valves or enlarged heart. These clots the break off and cause blockages in blood vessels of the brain and stroke.
How is Rheumatic heart disease diagnosed?
The diagnosis for RHD include the following :
- Physical examination : Your doctor will look for a heart murmur as it may suggest RHD. However, many patients with RHD do not have a heart murmur.
- Chest X-ray : The doctor will order a chest X-ray to check for an enlargement of the heart or the fluid on the lungs.
- Medical history : It includes the evidence of the past ARF (acute rheumatic fever) or a strep infection.
- Echocardiogram : It will check for any infection or damage in the heart valves and assess if there is a heart failure. This is one of the most useful test to determine if the RHD is present.
- Electrocardiogram (ECG) : It is used to check if the chambers of the heart have enlarged or to determine an abnormal heart rhythm called as arrhythmia.
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How is Rheumatic Heart Disease Treated?
- If the heart damage from rheumatic fever is identified in childhood or young adulthood, then daily oral antibiotics (often penicillin) or a single intramuscular penicillin injection is administered.
- The antibiotics help to prevent the recurrence of the rheumatic fever and also avoid the development of an infective bacterial endocarditis, an infection of the heart valves or the lining of the heart.
- Blood thinning medications will also be prescribed to prevent the stroke or think the blood for replacement valves. Additional treatment for RHD depends on the type of heart damage.
- Surgery is often required to repair to replace the heart valves in patient with severely damaged valves. They include:
- Valve Repair : It means that the valve is mended to help to work better. During repair, a ring may be sewn around the opening of the valve to support it.
- Valve Replacement : Valve replacement or valvuloplasty is a non-surgical technique that uses a cardiac catherization. During replacement, the diseased valve is removed and a new valve is inserted in its place. The replacement is done either with the help of a mechanical or a biological valve.
5 Reasons Why Should You Visit India for treating Rheumatic Heart Disease?
- Treating the rheumatic heart disease in India under the leading cardiologists ensure to provide a comprehensive cardiac care at an affordable price.
- India has a very good infrastructure with many medical units and hospitals having the latest equipments spanning from the basic facilities to the most sophisticated curative technology for cardiac care.
- International patients visit India each year for undergoing various cardiac surgeries and treatments as they need not have to worry about the arrangements while choosing India for the treatments.
- With the progressing medical tourism in India, all a patient has to do is fill out our free consultation form and send us your query.
- An added advantage of choosing India for treating the rheumatic heart disease include zero patient wait list and you can avail for the appropriate surgery and treatment as when you require or as per the urgency of your condition.
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