Rheumatic Heart Disease

Rheumatic heart disease (RHD) involves damage to the heart and heart vessels caused by rheumatic fever. A susceptible person acquires a streptococ-cal infection, which may trigger an autoimmune reaction in the heart tissue. Rheumatic fever can cause swelling (inflammation) in the heart, joints, brain, and spinal cord. Rheumatic fever produces fatigue (tiredness) and the infection can damage or weaken heart valves. Problems with the heart may be evident early, or it may occur long after the infection. RHD is characterized by heart murmurs, abnormal pulse rate and rhythm, and congestive heart failure. Acute RHD requires aggressive treatment to prevent heart failure. Chronic RHD requires continuous observation. If poor cardiac function develops, it may be treated with a low-sodium diet and diuretics. Patients with deformed heart valves should be given prophylactic antibiotics before dental and surgical procedures.

Your Heart and Nutrition

Your Heart and Nutrition

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