What is acute rheumatism?

Acute rheumatism is a form of rheumatism, which occurs after an infection with a bacteria. With this form of rheumatism there is always a different joint that is painful and causes complaints. What exactly does acute rheumatism mean and can it be treated?

What is acute rheumatism?

Acute rheumatism is still rare in Western countries. If it does occur, children between the ages of four and eighteen are mainly the victims. Before they develop acute rheumatism, there has often been a throat infection. Acute rheumatism occurs after an infection with a streptococcus, group A streptococcus. This is a bacterium that often causes throat infections. This bacterium is common. When you get this throat infection, you get a high fever. There are also joint complaints, in most cases this is the knee, elbow, ankle or wrist. What is striking is that people always suffer from a different joint.

There are several reasons why acute rheumatism is so rare in Western countries:

  • The use of antibiotics
  • Improved hygiene
  • Improved nutrition
  • The immunopathogenicity of streptococcus has changed


In response to the infection, the immune system attacks its own tissues. This is an incorrect response by the immune system, because it is supposed to protect the body. This is why acute rheumatism falls under the autoimmune diseases. In autoimmune diseases, the body produces antibodies against its own tissues.


Acute rheumatism starts with an infection. After the infection, painful joints and high fever are the biggest complaints. In the early stages of the disease, these are the most common complaints:

  • High fever
  • Fatigue
  • Decreased appetite
  • Stomach ache
  • Nosebleeds
  • Pallor

Subsequently, inflammation occurs in certain joints. It is often not the case that patients suffer from all joints at the same time, but that the joints will be painful in turn. This usually involves the following joints:

  • The elbow
  • The knee
  • The wrist
  • The ankle

It does not happen often, but it can happen very occasionally that multiple joints are inflamed at the same time. It is also possible that the joints do not hurt despite the inflammation, but that the patient only feels sick.

What can also occur with acute rheumatism are:

  • Heart complaints
  • Nervous complaints
  • Skin complaints


Acute rheumatism is very similar to other infectious diseases and rheumatic conditions. Therefore, the attending physician bases the diagnosis on the results of blood and physical examinations. Blood tests and heart tests are performed, among other things. People with acute rheumatism often suffer from mild anemia and the number of white blood cells has increased. These reactions are common in inflammation anyway. Acute rheumatism often progresses in attacks, it is possible to get the disease several times in a row. The disease usually goes away on its own. What is common among many people who have had acute rheumatism is that heart problems persist. This may be due to damage to the heart valves. Acute rheumatism mainly occurs in children and young adults.


In case of acute rheumatism, the doctor will prescribe medication. Which medicine depends on the complaints. If there is only joint pain, only a simple painkiller will be prescribed. In case of inflammation, antibiotics or an anti-inflammatory painkiller will be chosen. In addition to medication, it is recommended to rest a lot until the acute symptoms disappear. In the first five years after the first case of acute rheumatism, there is a chance that the complaints will recur. To prevent this, a monthly dose of antibiotics will be prescribed. Without treatment, acute rheumatism usually heals within about five months.