Various acute diseases place a strain upon the heart and often leave their imprint upon it. One of the acute diseases often followed by heart damage is rheumatic fever, a disease that most often affects the young. About 75 per cent of all who suffer from rheumatic fever are below the age of twenty.
This disease takes a terrific toll of human life. About 50,000 children are known to die from it yearly, and many of those who survive are left with permanently damaged hearts.
Those who recover from their first attack are always in danger of recurring attacks, and each succeeding attack is usually of a much more serious nature.
At least one-third of all adult heart diseases arise as an aftermath of rheumatic fever, while 90 per cent of all heart diseases in children are of this type.
Rheumatic fever was originally regarded as an acute rheumatic disease of the joints. However, since many of these cases are followed by heart damage, many authorities now classify it as a disease of the heart.
E. C. Laseque once described this disease as the disease that licks the joints and bites the heart. However, this disease frequently affects other parts of the body as well. The kidneys, the nerves, as well as many other parts of the body may be affected by it. When the nerves are affected, it gives rise to the condition known as chorea or St. Vitus Dance. Another point worth mentioning is that in many cases of rheumatic fever the joints may be completely free from pain.
No permanent heart damage need result from rheumatic fever. The type of treatment employed will often determine whether the patient is left with permanent heart damage or comes through unscathed.