rheumatic fever

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(acute rheumatism) a disease affecting mainly children and young adults that arises as a delayed complication of infection of the upper respiratory tract with haemolytic streptococci (see Streptococcus). The main features are fever, arthritis progressing from joint to joint, reddish circular patches on the skin, small painless nodules formed on bony prominences such as the elbow, abnormal involuntary movements of the limbs and head (Sydenham’s chorea), and inflammation of the heart muscle, its valves, and the membrane surrounding the heart. The condition may progress to chronic rheumatic heart disease, with scarring and chronic inflammation of the heart and its valves leading to heart failure, murmurs, and damage to the valves. The initial infection is treated with antibiotics (e.g. penicillin) and bed rest, with aspirin to relieve the joint pain. Following an acute attack, long-term prophylaxis with penicillin is often recommended to prevent a relapse. Rheumatic fever is now rare in developed countries.

Subjects: Medicine and Health.

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