Our expert says:
Rheumatic fever is usually a childhood disease, and can be of varying severity, such that many children are never diagnosed at the time. Only when heart valve problems develop later, does the penny drop that what happened before must have been rheumatic fever. Often, the illness is mild, and is referred to as “growing pains”.
Rheumatic fever results from a throat infection by a specific bacterium, the Group A Streptococcus. The child has a fever, joint pains, may develop a heart murmur, a skin rash, or even abnormal movements. The heart valve most commonly affected is the mitral valve, which can over many years become so damaged that it needs replacing.
By that stage, the illness is many years past, and there is no blood test which will make the diagnosis : the blood tests need to be done at the time of the illness to be valid. The blood test is specific, but is relevant only during the course of the illness, so would not be of help to you now. At this stage ( I’m presuming you are an adult) the diagnosis of your having had rheumatic fever as a child would be made on clinical grounds. That means that you would have a heart murmur, and a demonstrable valve problem. The definitive diagnosis would then probably rest on analysis of the defective heart valve which is removed at surgery, should you ever need a valve replacement. But this is a retrospective diagnosis, and does not alter the management of any present condition you may have.
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