Inflammation caused by rheumatic fever may last for a few weeks to several months. In some cases, the inflammation may cause long-term complications.

Rheumatic heart disease is permanent damage to the heart caused by the inflammation of rheumatic fever. Problems are most common with the valve between the two left chambers of the heart (mitral valve), but the other valves may be affected. The damage may result in one of the following conditions:

  • Valve stenosis. This condition is a narrowing of the valve, which results in decreased blood flow.
  • Valve regurgitation. This condition is a leak in the valve, which allows blood to flow in the wrong direction.
  • Damage to heart muscle. The inflammation associated with rheumatic fever can weaken the heart muscle, resulting in poor pumping function.

Damage to the mitral valve, other heart valves or other heart tissues can cause problems with the heart later in life. Resulting conditions may include:

  • Atrial fibrillation, an irregular and chaotic beating of the upper chambers of the heart (atria)
  • Heart failure, an inability of the heart to pump enough blood to the body
Feb. 18, 2014