Rheumatism is a systemic infectious-allergic disease in which connective tissue is damaged, mainly the cardiovascular system and joints, as well as internal organs and the central nervous system.
Previously, it was believed that it most often affected young people with a predisposition aged 7-15 years (this is the age of the first attack of rheumatism), now rheumatism has “matured”. In girls, rheumatism occurs 2.5 times more often than in boys.
The research carried out by scientists in recent years has proven that this disease belongs to a special allergic reaction to the ingestion of one of the streptococci (group “A”). Damage to its connective tissue is an autoimmune reaction of the body to the penetration of streptococci into it. According to the data obtained in the course of studies, signs of rheumatism appeared during the first month in 2.5% of patients who had had streptococcal infection.
Therefore, a history of diseases such as otitis media, tonsillitis, scarlet fever, erysipelas, postpartum fever requires close monitoring of the subsequent state of health. However, it develops only if there is a certain pathology of the immune system. Statistics say about 0.3-3% of patients who have been diagnosed with an acute streptococcal infection and have developed this disease.
Adverse factors that increase the risk of developing rheumatism include:
- history of acute streptococcal infection;
- unfavorable heredity (inferiority of clones of immunocompetent cells);
- frequent nasopharyngeal infections.
The manifestation is very diverse and is largely determined by the localization of the process. There may be a latent course.
In 100% of cases with rheumatism, the heart is affected, so-called rheumatic heart disease develops, which manifests itself:
- evere shortness of breath;
- heart palpitations, interruptions;
- pain in the heart;
- expansion of the boundaries of the heart during examination, heart murmur when listening.
Also, with rheumatism, joints are affected characterized by an acute onset, damage to predominantly symmetrical large joints, rapid spread from one joint to another (“volatility”), pain syndrome of varying severity, up to sharp pains in the joints with limited mobility, swelling of paraarticular tissues, redness. A rapid response to adequate therapy with symptom relief is also typical.
When the central nervous system is damaged, the following manifestations may appear: movements of various muscles of an involuntary nature (muscles of the face, upper and lower extremities, neck and trunk). This is manifested by grimaces, antics, theatrical movements, abrupt changes in handwriting, slurred speech.
It is also possible:
- increased body temperature (in some cases up to 40 degrees);
- attacks of severe chills;
- pronounced sweating;
- general breakdown.
The first rheumatic attack may go unnoticed. After months or even years, long-term remission can suddenly end. There are repeated attacks with similar manifestations, which often lead to severe deformities of the joints and heart defects.
Types of rheumatism
There are four forms of the disease:
Each form of the disease has its own distinctive features, according to which only a cardiologist is able to assess the situation and prescribe competent treatment.
- clinical blood test;
- biochemical blood test (study of C-reactive protein, fibrinogen, protein fractions of blood);
- serological tests (antistreptolysin O, antistreptohyaluronidase, antistreptokinase);
- ECG, echocardiography (ultrasound of the heart).
Diagnosis of rheumatism, especially with a latent course, is very difficult and can only be done by an experienced specialist.
In the treatment, antibiotics are used that affect streptococcal infection, steroid hormones, antihistamines, anti-inflammatory drugs. The duration of therapy is determined by the attending physician.
The prognosis for this disease is made taking into account the nature of the disease and the degree of myocardial damage.
The frequency of observation by a cardiologist depends on:
- phases of the disease;
- seizure frequency;
- severity of attacks;
- joined septic condition;
- circulatory failure.
An unfavorable prognosis is observed in young patients with an attached septic process, when a lethal outcome is possible. Deaths are observed in patients due to acute disturbance of the coronary circulation.
You shouldn’t risk your health! Timely appeal to a qualified doctor and the adoption of emergency measures, as well as the competent organization of the regimen in the active phase of the disease, can prevent the development of irreversible heart damage and improve the prognosis.
Prevention and recommendations
The only way to avoid the disease is the prevention of rheumatism, which is to prevent the initial streptococcal infection. In the case of streptococcal infection, competent treatment is necessary up to hospitalization. With a timely appeal to a qualified cardiologist, the likelihood of further development of the disease is reduced to zero.