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The differences between rheumatoid arthritis and rheumatic fever: What you need to know

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Rheumatoid arthritis and rheumatic fever are two very different conditions, but they are often confused in everyday conversation. Despite their similar names, the two conditions have very different causes, risk factors, and treatments. Understanding the difference between rheumatoid arthritis and rheumatic fever is important in order to appropriately diagnose and treat each condition.

1. What is the difference between rheumatoid arthritis and rheumatic fever?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune condition that affects the joints. It is caused by the body’s immune system mistakenly attacking healthy tissues in the body, leading to inflammation and pain in the joints.

The inflammation caused by RA can damage the cartilage, bones, and tendons in the joints and can lead to long-term deformities if left untreated. RA can affect people of any age but is more common in middle-aged adults and is more likely to affect women than men.

Common symptoms of RA include pain, stiffness, and swelling in the joints, as well as fatigue and low-grade fever.

Rheumatic fever (RF) is an inflammatory condition caused by a bacterial infection. It can affect many different parts of the body, but it is most commonly seen in the heart valves.

RF is caused by a strain of bacteria called group A Streptococcus, which is usually spread through contact with an infected person or via contaminated food or water. The infection causes inflammation in the heart valves, which can lead to long-term damage, if left untreated.

Common symptoms of RF include fever, joint pain, rash, and an enlarged lymph node.

What are the risk factors of RA and RF?

When it comes to risk factors, RA is more likely to affect people who are older than 40 and who have a family history of the condition. Other risk factors include smoking, obesity, and exposure to certain environmental toxins.

In contrast, RF is more likely to affect children and young adults and is more likely to occur in people who live in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions or who have other underlying medical conditions.

What are the treatments available for both diseases?

The treatments for RA and RF are very different.

RA is typically treated with medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs). In some cases, physical therapy and lifestyle changes may also be recommended.

RF is usually treated with antibiotics and medications to reduce inflammation and pain. In some cases, surgery may be recommended to repair any damage to the heart valves caused by the infection.


In conclusion, rheumatoid arthritis and rheumatic fever are two very different conditions. Although they have similar names, they have different causes, risk factors, and treatments. It is important to understand the differences between the two conditions to diagnose and treat those two conditions accurately.

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