How can strep throat damage the heart?

You might think of strep throat as a painful annoyance, but it can also be harmful to your heart health. If you suspect you have strep throat, it is important to seek a diagnosis from your primary care physician. Rheumatic fever, which can result if strep throat is not treated, can damage the heart's valves, causing them to thicken. This can restrict the valves’ ability to open or to close properly, or both.

Strep throat is caused by streptococcus bacteria. See your doctor if you have symptoms such as a sore throat and fever or white spots on the back of your throat. If test results confirm the presence of strep throat, your primary care physician will prescribe antibiotics to rid your body of the infection.

If strep throat progresses to rheumatic fever, it can cause permanent damage to your heart’s valves. Your heart has four valves that regulate blood flow in the heart. Healthy heart valves keep blood flowing through the heart in one direction. Diseased valves can allow blood to leak backward into the heart’s chambers or restrict blood flow. A person with diseased heart valves may experience fatigue, chest pain, or no symptoms at all. While some heart valve problems are not serious, others can cause heart failure or cardiac arrest.

Strep throat will resolve without treatment, but not seeking out treatment raises the risk for heart valve damage, which in turn can have serious consequences. Consulting your doctor if you suspect you have strep throat is a simple step you can take toward heart health.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.