About the Disease
Rheumatic heart disease (RHD) is damage to one or more heart valves that remains after an episode of acute rheumatic fever (ARF) is resolved. It is caused by an episode or recurrent episodes of ARF, where the heart has become inflamed. The heart valves can remain stretched and/or scarred, and normal blood flow through damaged valves is interrupted. Blood may flow backward through stretched valves that do not close properly, or may be blocked due to scarred valves not opening properly. When the heart is damaged in this way, the heart valves are unable to function adequately, and heart surgery may be required.
Acute rheumatic fever is an illness caused by an autoimmune response to a bacterial infection with group A streptococcus, commonly called the strep bacteria. Infection with group A streptococcus can cause many illnesses, including sore throat (strep throat) and skin sores. In some cases, the immune system gets confused when reacting to the infection and the result is a generalised inflammatory illness that is called acute rheumatic fever.