Rheumatic Fever - Symptoms

Authored by Dr Oliver Starr, 06 Jul 2017

Patient is a certified member of
The Information Standard

Reviewed by:
Dr Laurence Knott, 06 Jul 2017

Rheumatic fever can affect the joints (like your knees, elbows and wrists), the heart, the nervous system (your brain) and sometimes the skin.

  • Some joints become hot and red and are sore to move.
  • The knees, wrists, elbows and ankles are affected.
  • The pain and redness may come and go: some joints will get better then others will get worse.
  • Usually only two joints are affected at the same time.
  • Each joint is usually affected for a few hours to a few days, before improving.
  • It causes something called 'carditis': just medical talk for an inflamed heart.
  • It can inflame the covering of the heart and cause something called 'pericarditis'.
  • Or the heart muscle itself, causing myocarditis.
  • Or the little valves inside the heart, causing endocarditis.
  • This can give you pains in the chest, breathlessness and a fast heart rate.
  • In about a quarter of people with rheumatic fever they develop strange, jerky movements called 'chorea'.
  • They usually last a few weeks and then fade away, but in a few cases can go on for months.
  • The movements usually settle down when the person sleeps.
  • Skin problems only affect about 10% of people with rheumatic fever.
  • They can be tiny bumps under the skin (called subcutaneous nodules).
  • Some people get pale red patches on their arms and tummy (called erythema marginatum).
  • These skin problems are not serious and they fade away once the rheumatic fever goes away.

Further reading and references

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