Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death, not only in the United States, but the world over, including third world countries. The following article gives a comprehensive list about the different types of cardiovascular diseases, their causes, symptoms, prognosis, and treatment.
Cardiovascular diseases involve the heart and the blood vessels; blood vessels include veins, arteries, and capillaries. These blood vessels are responsible for maintaining the flow of blood to the body. Principally, in any cardiovascular disease, a patient suffers from blocked blood vessels that prevent the normal flow of blood to the body and disrupts the heart’s regular functioning.
Apart from the risk factors mentioned above, the other causes of cardiovascular diseases are atherosclerosis and hypertension. Atherosclerosis is a condition that is characterized by thickening or hardening of the arteries due to plaque deposition along the walls of the arteries. This narrows the passage in the arteries through which blood flows and limits the supply of blood to the rest of the body. Hypertension is a disorder in which the arterial blood pressure increases. A hypertensive heart needs to pump harder than usual under a lot of pressure.
- Coronary Heart Disease
- Cor Pulmonale
- Congenital Heart Defect
- Myocardial Infarction
- Congestive Heart Failure
- Valvular Heart Disease
- Peripheral Arterial Disease
- Cerebrovascular Accident
- Rheumatic Heart Disease
Coronary Heart Disease (CHD), also referred to as Coronary Artery Disease (CAD), has been a leading cause of death for years now, not only in the United States, but all over the world. In this condition, the arteries that supply pure blood (blood rich in oxygen and nutrients) to the heart, harden or thicken due to the deposition of plaque along their walls. Plaque is made up of fat and cholesterol. The deposition of plaque along the arterial walls is a gradual process. This hardening of the arteries narrows the passage through which blood flows, thus preventing free flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart.
❖ Increased cholesterol levels in the blood is a major risk factor of CHD.
❖ Smoking leads to an increased level of nicotine and carbon monoxide in the blood, which significantly increases the risk of coronary heart disease.
❖ If hypertension reaches a crisis level, then there are high chances of it precipitating into a coronary artery disease.
❖ Other factors include obesity, high level stress, insufficient physical activity, and improper and unhealthy eating habits.
❖ Angina is the most common symptom. It is a condition marked by discomfort and pain in the chest. Ideally, the patient suffers from acute substernal pain that is produced by reversible myocardial ischemia. The pain may also be felt in the neck, jaw, shoulders, and back.
❖ The patient experiences pain in the retrosternal region that may radiate from the precordium to the inner side of the left arm, shoulder, and back.
❖ The pain may be severely crushing or choking in nature, and is often brought about by exertion, cold weather, or a heavy meal.
❖ Other symptoms include irregular heartbeat, sweating, dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath, and weakness.
❖ Certain general measures like a change in lifestyle, reduction of smoking, resorting to a healthy diet by cutting down on high-fat food, and engaging in regular physical activities can help decrease the risk factors.
❖ Angina can be cured by instant administration of sublingual nitrate in the form of nitroglycerin.
❖ Other drugs that can be administered are beta blockers and calcium channel blockers.
❖ In certain cases the doctor may also suggest angioplasty or coronary artery bypass graft.
Though CHD is an often fatal disease, the prognosis depends upon various factors. In some patients, adoption of a healthy lifestyle, regular exercises, and taking medicines as advised by the doctor go a long way in keeping them fit and active. In some cases surgery may be required. The prognosis has significantly improved in the recent years, however, early detection and prevention of the risk factors is necessary to prevent the disease.
Cor Pulmonale, or pulmonary heart disease, is a disease in which the right ventricle of the heart enlarges due to increase in blood pressure in the pulmonary arteries. Pulmonary arteries are vessels that carry blood from the heart to the lungs. The high pressure in the arteries puts extra strain on the heart and can eventually lead to failure of the right side of the heart.
❖ The most significant causes include formation of blood clots in the lungs, scarring of the lung tissue, and a decrease in the level of oxygen in the blood.
❖ Pulmonary hypertension, which is an increase of blood pressure in the pulmonary arteries.
❖ General causes like kyphoscoliosis (abnormal bending of the upper part of the spine), and obstructive sleep apnea (breathing difficulties while sleeping) increase the risk of cor pulmonale.
❖ Other risk factors are lung diseases like Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), black lung disease, and cystic fibrosis.
❖ Cyanosis, a condition in which the color of the skin turns blue, is the first symptom to watch out for.
❖ The patient experiences severe chest pain, breathlessness, fatigue, exertion, palpitations, and irregular heartbeat.
❖ Swelling of the legs, feet, and ankles.
❖ Protruding veins in the neck and the face of the patient.
❖ Cough, wheezing, and wet cough.
❖ The patient may require oxygen therapy to maintain the optimum percentage of oxygen in the blood and control breathlessness.
❖ Blood thinning medicines are administered to avoid clots in the lungs.
❖ To keep the symptoms under control, drugs like, ambrisentan, bosentan, diuretics, calcium channel blockers, and bronchodilators are administered.
❖ In extreme cases a transplant of the heart and lungs may be necessary.
❖ The patient should avoid smoking, alcohol, heavy physical activities, cold weather, and traveling to places that are at high altitudes.
❖ A healthy diet, preferably a low-salt diet, is often prescribed.
The prognosis varies for each patient and depends on the underlying health problem. In most cases, treatment of the underlying cause, medication, and lifestyle changes can help the patient lead a healthy life.
A congenital heart defect (CHD) is a condition in which there is an abnormality in the structure of the heart, which is present at birth. This is the most common birth defect in which the heart and the blood vessels of the baby are not completely formed.
❖ A congenital heart defect may be inherited from a parent who already has the defect.
❖ Babies with Down syndrome are more likely to be born with congenital heart defects. Down syndrome is a genetic disorder, that unfortunately has no cure.
❖ Pregnant women who are obese, alcoholic, diabetic or suffer from flu and rubella, or those who are exposed to toxic substances like paint and glue, are most likely to give birth to children with congenital heart defects.
❖ Cyanosis (color of the skin turns blue).
❖ Shortness of breath, excessive sweating, fatigue, and tiredness.
❖ Respiratory infections and improper blood circulation.
❖ In some cases, children may have a heart murmur.
❖ Feeding problems, stunted growth, and poor weight gain.
❖ The treatment depends on the severity of the condition.
❖ Most of the babies who are diagnosed with a congenital heart defect don’t need treatment and continue to live a healthy life.
❖ If required, surgical treatments in the form of cardiac catheterization, open heart surgeries, valve replacement, and heart transplants are necessary to repair the defects.
The prognosis of CHD has shown remarkable improvement in the recent years. Most of the babies live a long and healthy life. Scientists have come up with excellent foolproof methods that help detect and cure these defects.
In this condition, it becomes extremely difficult for the heart to pump blood to the other parts of the body. People from any age group may be affected with this condition and that is what makes it dangerous. Cardiomyopathy can lead to arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) and heart failure. There are mainly three types of cardiomyopathy:
Dilated Cardiomyopathy – the ventricles and atria of the heart grow in size (dilate). Due to this the heart cannot pump enough blood to the body.
Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy – disproportionate hypertrophying (thickening) of the heart muscle occurs.
Restrictive Cardiomyopathy – the walls of the ventricles harden and stiffen till they become rigid.
❖ Excessive alcohol intake and drug abuse is a major cause of cardiomyopathy.
❖ High blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, and hemochromatosis (iron buildup in the body).
❖ Those with metabolic disorders like thyroid and diabetes are at a high risk.
❖ Pregnant mothers are potential candidates for developing cardiomyopathy.
❖ In some cases it may be acquired genetically if there is a history of the disease in the family.
In most cases, it is difficult to recognize the symptoms of cardiomyopathy in the early stages. The symptoms become evident as the condition progresses. These include:
❖ Tiredness, irregular heartbeat, extreme fatigue, and abdominal bloating.
❖ Weakness in the limbs and other parts of the body.
❖ The person experiences breathing difficulties, dizziness, and might faint.
❖ Edema (swelling in the hands, legs, ankles, and feet).
❖ The treatment depends upon the type of cardiomyopathy and the associated signs and symptoms.
❖ Along with drugs like angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARB), anticoagulants or blood thinners are administered to prevent formation of blood clots in dilated cardiomyopathy patients.
❖ Electrolytes and diuretics are used to maintain the acid-base balance and the fluid level respectively.
❖ Beta blockers and calcium channel blockers are used to lower the heart rate as well as the blood pressure.
❖ Antiarrhythmic drugs are prescribed to treat abnormal heart rhythms. Pacemakers may be required to continuously monitor the heart’s electrical system and help relieve the symptoms related to arrhythmia.
❖ Surgically, the patient can be treated with the help of procedures like heart transplant, angioplasty, and coronary artery bypass surgery.
❖ The patient should make certain healthy changes like, quit drinking and smoking, engage in physical activities, and maintain a healthy weight.
The prognosis depends on factors like, the type of cardiomyopathy, the underlying cause and its severity, and how early the disease is diagnosed. Studies show that increased awareness of the signs and symptoms of the condition and early diagnosis can prevent the complications and improve the prognosis.
Of all the different types of heart diseases, myocardial infarction or acute myocardial infarction, commonly known as a heart attack, is one of the most common medical emergency conditions, which comes with a high mortality rate. A large number of myocardial infarction cases occur at rest, during sleep, or sometimes after heavy exertion.
❖ Partial or complete blockage of one or more of the arteries is by far the most common cause of myocardial infarction.
❖ Atherosclerosis (thickening of the walls of the arteries due to plaque buildup).
❖ High blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
❖ Smoking, excessive intake of certain drugs, increased stress levels, and lack of physical activities increase the risk of a heart attack.
❖ A family history of myocardial infarction.
❖ Other factors include unstable angina, variant angina, and hypoglycemia.
❖ Chest pain, which is severe, constricting and resembles an angina attack. The person may seem restless, sweat profusely, and be in a state of panic. These also sometimes manifest as heart attack warning signs.
❖ The sound of the heartbeat may be muffled.
❖ Weak peripheral pulse, with cold and sweating extremities and visible pallor.
❖ Other symptoms include irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), dyspnea (shortness of breath), fainting, dizziness, lightheadedness, indigestion, and nausea.
❖ The first line of action in heart attack treatment is pain relief. A subcutaneous injection for pain relief is given. If that fails to act, then a slow intravenous or subcutaneous injection of morphine is given.
❖ Oxygen is given via a mask. Continuous oxygen administration provides relief by improving myocardial oxygen supply.
❖ Certain drugs are used for the cure and treatment of heart attack. This includes low-dose aspirin, certain sedative drugs, and antianxiety drugs.
❖ Fibrinolytic therapy is given to patients to reduce the infarct size. These agents reduce the infarct size and the ventricular damage. They help restore coronary blood flow, thus, salvaging the myocardium. Streptokinase is the most commonly used fibrinolytic agent.
❖ Complete bed rest is enforced for the first 48 hours after an attack. Also, the patient should be preferably on a low-fat diet, which should be a liquid diet for the first few days, and then should be slowly shifted to a semi-solid diet.
❖ If these measures fail, then the only option left for a patient of myocardial infarction is surgery. The various options include angioplasty and coronary artery bypass surgery.
The mortality rate has improved over the years due to better treatment facilities. The recovery of a patient after a heart attack depends on his health and the extent of damage to the heart muscles and valves. In most cases, a patient can resume his daily activities after he has been treated or operated. However, necessary modifications in lifestyle, diet, and physical activities might be needed. The risks of a second heart attack is more after the first.
Congestive heart failure or heart failure is one of the most common conditions affecting the heart. It is the failure of the heart to meet the body’s demands of adequate blood circulation. The different types of congestive heart failure are acute or chronic heart failure, high-output or low-output heart failure, and left-sided or right-sided biventricular failure. There can also be compensated or decompensated heart failure.
❖ Myocardial causes, where there is myocardial dysfunction leading to reduced contractile force of the heart. The causes of this include viral infections like viral pneumonia, rheumatic fever, beri beri, coronary heart disease, hypertension, diphtheria, amyloidosis, and degenerative diseases involving the heart.
❖ Mechanical lesions of the heart where there is a volume overload, as seen in valvular heart disease (aortic and mitral disease), syphilitic heart disease, as seen in the third stage of syphilis.
❖ Diseases interfering with the diastolic filling of the heart, like constrictive pericarditis, pericardial effusion, and restrictive cardiomyopathy.
❖ Rhythm disturbances, especially in a compromised heart, since they reduce the end-diastolic volume due to reduction in diastolic interval. These include atrial tachycardias, atrial flutter, atrial fibrillation, and heart block.
❖ Conditions where there is an increased pressure on the heart to pump out more blood, like high fever, pregnancy, or thyrotoxicosis.
❖ Other risk factors include increased alcohol consumption, thyroid disorders, excessive use of drugs and medication, and diets that comprise fatty food.
Left Heart Failure Symptoms:
❖ Progressive breathlessness, especially due to exertion.
❖ Paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea attacks.
❖ Weakness, fatigue, palpitation, and pain in the chest.
❖ Acute left heart failure is characterized by basal crepitations, tachycardia, cold extremities, facial pallor, hypertension, and a galloping rhythm.
Right Heart Failure Symptoms:
❖ Generalized fatigue and weakness including cough, breathlessness, anorexia, abdominal distension, pain, and dragging sensation in the right hypochondrium.
❖ Headache, restlessness, insomnia, weight gain, swelling of legs and feet, oliguria, and nocturia.
❖ Physical signs include cyanosis, warm extremities, engorged neck veins, elevated jugular venous pressure, enlarged liver, and edema (swelling of the legs and feet).
❖ The size of the heart is generally within normal limits. Pulmonary diastolic murmur is seen due to pulmonary hypertension. Signs of pleural effusion may be present.
❖ Congestive heart failure caused due to low or insufficient supply of blood to the myocardium, can be treated by coronary arterial surgeries like, angioplasty or intracoronary stenting.
❖ If the heart failure is due to improper functioning or failure of the heart valves, then it may be corrected by valve surgery.
❖ If it is caused due to hypertension, it can be treated by controlling the patient’s blood pressure.
❖ Take adequate rest but maintain a minimum level of physical activity.
❖ A nutritious diet that is well-balanced and low in calories and salt is very important. Frequent but small meals should be consumed. Evening meals should be light and adequate time interval should be maintained between the evening meals and the time of sleep.
❖ Often after being diagnosed with congestive heart failure, the patient is confined to bed and the diet is either light and semi-solid or liquid. A daily bowel movement is desirable, however, straining during bowel movements must be avoided.
❖ In most cases there is need to take to drug therapy. They are mostly inotropic drugs that have a direct effect on the myocardium, by increasing the systolic contraction of the heart, and thus increasing the cardiac output. Other drugs that are also used include diuretics and vasodilators.
❖ The patient can introduce healthy lifestyle changes like reducing consumption of alcohol, avoiding fatty food and stress to stay in control of the situation at all times.
According to Gregg C. Fonarow, M.D, Chairman of American Heart Association, “Despite the increasing number of people affected, the prognosis for patients with heart failure has steadily improved.” This is due to the improved methods of treatment available for this condition. Though it is a common and a serious condition, with the advancement in medical science and the quality of treatment and care, patients can lead a relatively normal life.
The heart has four valves: the aortic and mitral valves in the left part of the heart and the pulmonary and tricuspid valves in the right part of the heart. A valvular heart disease is one which affects any of these four valves. Valvular heart diseases are characterized either by hardening of the valves (valvular stenosis), or regurgitation (valvular regurgitation). Regurgitation happens when blood flows ‘back’ through the valve in the wrong or opposite direction. This condition can be present at birth or acquired later in life due to other underlying cardiovascular diseases.
❖ The most common cause is the congenital valve disease in which the valves may not be of the correct size or are malformed.
❖ The bicuspid aortic valve disease and mitral valve prolapse can affect and damage the valves of the heart.
❖ Conditions like rheumatic fever and endocarditis, hypertension, connective tissue diseases, cardiomyopathy, heart attacks, and certain drugs and radiation also affect the valves of the heart.
❖ Weakness, shortness of breath, dizziness and fainting, fatigue, uneasiness, excruciating pain in the chest, palpitation, and irregular heartbeat are the general symptoms of valvular diseases.
❖ The person experiences sudden weight gain.
❖ Swelling in the abdomen, legs, feet, and ankles.
❖ The above symptoms are generic. So if the patient exhibits these symptoms, he is advised to undergo various tests like MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging), echocardiograph, and cardiac catheterization for reasserting the condition.
❖ In symptomatic patients, valvular heart diseases can be treated medically as well as surgically, depending on the extent of damage and the severity of the condition.
❖ A surgery may be required to replace or repair the damaged valve.
❖ Surgical procedures include mitral valvuloplasty and aortic valve replacement.
❖ The medication prescribed include diuretics, vasodilators, beta blockers, and anticoagulants.
❖ The patient is advised a few healthy lifestyle changes to reduce the risk factors. This include following a low-sodium diet, reducing stress levels, maintaining a healthy weight, quitting smoking, etc.
Many people with heart valve defects don’t show any symptoms. However, in some people the condition may worsen if timely treatment is not undertaken. It is possible that patients with valvular diseases can lead a normal life. However, this largely depends on the patient’s attitude and how they cope with the post treatment program. Consult your doctor if you notice any of the symptoms. Go for regular check-ups, take your medicines timely, maintain dental hygiene as advised by your doctor, and make healthier modifications to your lifestyle, to lower the risk factors.
Any kind of irregularity in the heartbeat is known as cardiac arrhythmia. Heart rate is controlled by a number of factors. These include the sympathetic and parasympathetic impulses. Cardiac arrhythmia can be benign or even be life-threatening. They can manifest as rapid or irregular heartbeats such as premature beats or as ventricular tachycardia or fibrillation. Many a time, cardiac arrhythmia may be the first manifestation of an underlying cardiac ailment.
❖ Harmless arrhythmia may be produced due to severe anxiety and stress.
❖ Excessive intake of tea, coffee, alcohol or tobacco and nicotine can spur on arrhythmia.
❖ Certain metabolic factors such as diabetic ketoacidosis, hypoglycemia, hypercalcemia, etc.
❖ Endocrinal disorders like hyperthyroidism, pheochromocytoma, hypothyroidism, hyperaldosteronism, etc.
❖ Electrolyte disturbances like hypokalemia, alterations in magnesium levels, hyperkalemia, hypernatremia, etc.
❖ Drug toxicity caused by drugs like digitalis, diuretics, antidepressants, phenothiazine, etc.
❖ Other heart ailments like ischemic heart disease, valvular heart disease, congenital heart disease, etc.
❖ Irregular heartbeats in the form of occasional premature heartbeats, ventricular tachycardia, and ventricular fibrillation.
❖ They can also manifest as extra systoles or ectopic beats, supraventricular ectopic beats, ventricular premature beats, etc.
❖ Fatigue, dizziness, lightheadedness, fainting (syncope), and chest pain.
❖ The patient can also lose consciousness and has breathing difficulties.
❖ The basic approach of management of arrhythmia is to make an accurate diagnosis of the underlying cardiac condition. This can be done by taking a detailed history so as to look out for signs that suggest a specific disease or condition.
❖ Depending on the type of condition that is causing the arrhythmia, specific drugs are administered. These include beta blockers like propranolol, acebutolol, and atenolol. Other drugs are procainamide, diazepam, lignocaine, etc.
❖ Some cases may require surgical placement of automated external defibrillators.
❖ Sometimes medical devices such as a pacemaker may be required to continuously monitor the heart’s electrical system and help relieve the symptoms related to arrhythmia (bradycardia).
❖ For those diagnosed with tachycardia (rapid heartbeat) treatment may include vagal maneuvers or cardioversion that slow down the heart rate.
Timely treatment and the response of the patient go a long way in the treatment of cardiac arrhythmia. However, the prognosis depends upon the type and severity of the condition. Most of the time cardiac arrhythmia can be cured or controlled with the help of devices like pacemakers and implantable cardiovascular defibrillators.
This is a disease in which the flow of blood from the heart to the lower extremities or the legs is restricted or reduced. This happens due to the hardening or thickening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) that are responsible for carrying blood from the heart to the body. Patients suffering from Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) or Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD) experience agonizing pain in the lower extremities like the hip, buttocks, thighs, knee joints, calves, and feet.
❖ The most common cause of PAD is atherosclerosis, which restricts the flow of blood from the heart to the different parts of the body.
❖ Other factors include inflammation or injuries to the blood vessels, or increased exposure to radiation.
❖ People who smoke, are obese, suffer from diabetes and hypertension are at a greater risk of suffering from PAD.
❖ Sometimes, the gender of the patient is the deciding factor; men are at a higher risk of being diagnosed with PAD than women.
❖ The patient experiences excruciating pain, cramps, numbness, weakness, and a missing pulse in the legs while walking (claudication).
❖ Loss of hair or decreased hair growth on the legs is observed.
❖ Growth of the toenails is very poor.
❖ The color of the skin in the legs appears bluish.
❖ Poor or slow healing of wounds on the legs.
❖ PAD can cause erectile dysfunction in men.
❖ PAD, if diagnosed in the early stages, can be controlled by adopting healthy lifestyle changes.
❖ The treatment involves controlling the symptoms and avoiding further arterial damage due to plaque deposition.
❖ Medically, doctors advise aspirin to patients suffering from PAD. It helps reduce the formation of blood clots in the arteries.
❖ Surgical procedures like angioplasty and bypass surgery may be recommended if the blood flow to your limbs is blocked. It may be necessary to amputate the limb if it turns gangrenous.
❖ Exercising regularly, eating healthy food, quitting smoking, taking good care of the feet and legs, reducing alcohol, maintaining a healthy weight, and regulating the blood pressure and cholesterol levels can help in faster recovery and avoid further PAD attacks.
Peripheral arterial disease is on the rise and is associated with a major health concern. The prognosis depends on the severity of the condition. Patients of PAD have higher chances of developing other cardiovascular diseases, and are at a risk of death from coronary and cerebral ischemic events.
Also known as a brain attack or stroke, this happens when the supply of oxygen and blood to the brain is hampered, which causes the brain cells to die. In this case, the arteries that carry blood to the brain from the heart rupture (hemorrhagic CVA), or get blocked due to atherosclerosis (ischemic CVA). Cerebrovascular accidents are one of the leading causes of death not only in the United States but also in other parts of the world.
❖ A stroke happens when blood clots in some part of the body break off and travel up to the brain. This is called cerebral embolism.
❖ Diabetes, smoking, hypertension, stress, anxiety, and increased cholesterol levels in the blood are some of the risk factors of cerebrovascular accidents.
❖ Prevalent medical conditions like myocardial infarction, migraines, brain aneurysms, atrial fibrillation, and malignant hypertension increase the risk of a stroke.
❖ Silent strokes (strokes of very low intensity) affect the brain to a great extent and can put the patient at a high risk of developing CVA.
❖ Venous thrombosis, a condition in which the pressure exerted by the veins is much greater than the pressure exerted by the arteries, causes stroke.
❖ Family history of stroke can also pose a risk.
❖ A stroke is characterized by abrupt and sudden numbness or weakness in one or more parts of the body like the legs, arms, or face. It may also result in paralysis of either side of the body.
❖ The face muscles begin to twitch and become weak, which makes it difficult for the patient to talk.
❖ The patient experiences blurry vision or double vision, dizziness, and a tingling sensation in the area that has been affected by the stroke.
❖ The patient loses balance and finds it difficult to maintain coordination.
❖ A stroke is a medical emergency and prompt treatment is necessary to save the life of the patient. The treatment depends upon the cause and severity of the stroke.
❖ The treatment aims at reversing the neurological effects of a stroke and reducing the risk factors that might cause another stroke.
❖ Thrombolytic drugs that break up and dissolve the blood clot that was originally obstructing the blood flow are administered to the patient. Aspirin prevents formation of such clots.
❖ Thrombolytic drugs cannot be given to patients who have suffered a hemorrhagic stroke as they are capable of causing more damage than before.
❖ Continuous supply of oxygen is suggested to maintain the levels of oxygen in the brain. Drugs that control the levels of glucose and high blood pressure are also suggested.
❖ Surgeries like carotid artery stenting, carotid endarterectomy or carotid angioplasty are suggested for the treatment of a stroke, and to prevent further episodes.
The outlook of a person who has suffered from a stroke depends on the type of stroke and its severity, the extent of damage to the brain cells, and in which part of the brain it has occurred. Some recover completely while there are others who may experience severe spasticity which can interfere with their day-to-day activities like walking, eating, driving, etc. However, early treatment can make a significant difference in the recovery of the patient and the long-term prognosis as well. People who suffer from ischemic stroke endure better than those who suffer from hemorrhagic stroke. A person who has already suffered from a stroke needs to be extremely careful and vigilant during the first few months as the chances of having a second stroke increases.
It is a severe complication that occurs due to rheumatic fever. Rheumatic fever is an inflammatory disease that affects the connective tissues of the skin, joints, muscles, brain, and the heart, and generally affects small children. It generally develops with a throat infection caused by the bacteria Streptococcus. Repeated or prolonged attacks of rheumatic fever can lead to rheumatic heart disease, and damage the valves of the heart to a great extent.
❖ Rheumatic fever is by far the major cause of rheumatic heart disease. It results due to an infection caused by Group A Streptococcus (GAS) bacteria.
❖ Untreated or repeated strep throat infections can cause rheumatic fever, which may eventually lead to rheumatic heart disease.
❖ Others include unhygienic living conditions and inadequate or lack of medical treatment.
❖ Rashes with irregular edges that appear on the trunk or the arms and legs.
❖ Weight loss and fever accompanied with red, swollen, and painful joints.
❖ Small nodules or bumps are noticed beneath the skin.
❖ The patient feels tired more often, experiences fatigue, pain in the abdomen, stomach, and chest.
The above symptoms of rheumatic fever resemble any other medical condition, and may remain undiagnosed for a long time. Untreated symptoms of rheumatic fever can eventually affect the heart and damage the valves. Often the symptoms exhibited by damaged heart valves may not be easily noticeable, however, you can watch out for the following symptoms:
❖ Palpitations, shortness of breath, syncope (fainting), and breathing difficulties with physical exertion.
❖ Since rheumatic fever is the main cause, the treatment involves treating and preventing the same from occurring.
❖ The patient is put on antibiotics to treat the infection caused by Streptococcus bacteria or to prevent further episodes of rheumatic fever.
❖ Doctors also prescribe medicines that help in thinning the blood to avoid strokes.
❖ If the infection leads to inflammation of the heart, medication to reduce the inflammation are prescribed.
❖ In cases where the valves have been damaged, surgery to repair the valves or replace them are carried out.
The prognosis depends on the following factors.
❖ Signs and symptoms associated with rheumatic heart disease.
❖ The duration of the infection, its severity, and recurrence.
❖ The valve that was affected due to the infection, the associated complications, and the prevalence of other underlying heart diseases.
❖ If the heart valves are not affected, then use of antibiotics can prevent the infection from recurring, thereby preventing further damage to the heart.
Prevention is better than cure. Hence, it is of paramount importance that we take our heart health seriously, and earnestly switch to a more healthy lifestyle, because after all healthy living is the key to a long and healthy life!
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.