Can Strep Throat Cause a Heart Attack?

Strep throat is a common bacterial infection of the throat. Every year millions of people visit their doctors or clinics because of a sore throat. In addition to the costs on an individual level, it’s estimated that strep throat is responsible for over half a billion dollars in healthcare costs


Strep throat is caused by a bacteria called Streptococcus pyogenes, which belongs to Group A beta-hemolytic Streptococci. This bacteria attaches itself to the surfaces of the throat and releases its toxins. This causes fever, sore throat, and enlarged glands, and pus in the back of the throat.

Generally, strep throat affects mainly school-aged children between 5-15 years old, but anyone exposed can get it, including adults who are in frequent contact with children. Strep throat is usually frequent in schools and military facilities. 


Strep throat is usually self-limited and can resolve spontaneously without the need for treatment; however, antibiotics are recommended to eliminate potential risks. Although in rare cases, it may result in serious complications like rheumatic heart disease, inflammation of the kidneys, and other illnesses.


How can strep throat cause a heart attack? 

Myocardial infarction, known more commonly as a "heart attack," is one of the most common causes of death worldwide. Usually, it's a disease affecting older people with a history of heart disease, diabetes, and smoking, but the causes vary by person. Heart attacks occur due to blockage in the arteries that supply the heart, causing it to stop. A heart attack is characterized by crushing chest pain, nausea, and difficulty breathing. On rare occasions, heart attacks can happen from something other than a blockage, one of these being a strep throat infection. 


Researchers from Belgium described two cases of heart attack that resulted as a complication of strep throat infection. Both of the affected individuals were young, in their late twenties and mid-thirties. And both of them had been perfectly healthy without a history of smoking, heart disease, or drug abuse. One of them was brought to the emergency department complaining of a sore throat, fever, and fatigue since returning from a trip to Amsterdam. When he was examined, his throat was inflamed with white discharge over his tonsils. All the symptoms pointed to strep throat. 


He was admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU), but shortly after being admitted, he suddenly had a heart attack. He was rushed to surgery, thinking that the blood supply to his heart was blocked. However, once he was in surgery, the doctors noted that the blood supply to his heart was completely normal. Doctors diagnosed him with having a post-strep throat heart attack. After this heart attack, the patient received antibiotics for strep throat, and his condition improved dramatically.


The second patient in this case study was admitted to the emergency department with symptoms of a heart attack. Similarly, he went into surgery to find that the blood supply to his heart was just fine, and there was another cause behind his symptoms. After talking to his doctors, he admitted he had been experiencing strep throat symptoms for the past three days. After confirming a strep throat diagnosis and starting amoxicillin therapy, he quickly improved as well. 


Similar cases were published, and although rare, they are good examples of why you should never ignore your symptoms. Even if you think it’s just a simple sore throat, it could be something more. It is also important to finish all prescribed medication to avoid a reoccurrence.


At-home diagnostics tests like Checkable's rapid strep tests allow you to get fast and accurate results from home without having to go see your doctor, so you can get a diagnosis and start on the right course of medicine right away if necessary. No more doctor visits; test from the comfort of your own home and start feeling better faster.