What Happens When Strep Throat Goes Untreated?

It isn’t easy to ignore a sore, scratchy throat, but it’s often easier to avoid the hassle of going to the doctor to find out the underlying cause. Although 75% of sore throat visits to the doctor end up not being treated for strep throat, there is good cause to get checked just in case. If a sore throat that winds up being strep throat goes untreated, potentially severe complications could occur. 


Rheumatic Fever

If strep throat goes untreated, the bacteria could continue to grow and, in return, create an ongoing immune response from the body. The continual response could cause your body to start confusing other organs, joints, skin, and the nervous system as a part of the infection. In some cases, the heart is the organ that can be affected, and potential heart failure can occur. 


Scarlet Fever

Strep throat can cause a rash called Scarlet Fever if left untreated. Scarlet fever is a red, sandpaper-like rash that begins to form on the face and neck before spreading to the other areas of the body. 


Middle Ear Infection 

Untreated strep throat can cause middle ear infection, also called Otitis Media. The strep bacteria in the middle ear may cause nausea, dizziness, and extreme pain. 



If strep throat is left unchecked, it could lead to an inflammatory disease of the kidneys, specifically the glomeruli. If the glomeruli become inflamed, they will not filter waste properly and allow protein and blood to pass into the urine. 



Untreated strep throat can cause impetigo, a highly contagious bacterial skin infection. Impetigo can occur when streptococcal or staphylococcal bacteria enter the top layer of the skin, usually from a cut or abrasion. 


Toxic shock syndrome

Although rare, untreated strep throat can lead to toxic shock syndrome, a potentially life-threatening condition caused by the strep infection. 



There has been correlation between strep infection and a rare condition called pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorder associated with group A streptococci (PANDAS). Children who have this condition often experience intensified symptoms of neuropsychiatric conditions like obsessive-compulsive disorder and tic disorders. However, this correlation is still hotly debated in the medical community. 

Some additional complications of untreated strep throat could be: 

  • Meningitis
  • Pneumonia
  • Infected lymph nodes
  • Arthritis


A trip to the doctor may feel like a hassle, but the dedicated time to receive the proper treatment will be well worth it. Lucky for you, soon you will be able to diagnose a sore throat from the comfort of your own home. Leaving you little excuse not to get it checked out!