What is heart valve disease?
Heart valve disease is a condition in which at least one of your heart’s four valves doesn't function properly.
How do heart valves work?
There are four valves within your heart. They are the mitral, tricuspid, aortic and pulmonic valve.
The mitral valve and tricuspid valves lie between the atria (upper heart chambers) and the ventricles (lower heart chambers). The aortic valve and pulmonic valve lie between the ventricles and the major blood vessels leaving the heart.
As blood leaves each chamber of the heart, it passes through a valve. Your heart valves make sure that blood flows in only one direction through your heart.
What are the leading problems caused by valves working improperly?
The two most common types of heart valve problems are:
Regurgitation, or backflow, occurs when the valve does not close tightly enough. This causes blood to leak back into the chambers instead of flowing through the heart or into an artery. This is most often due to “prolapse,” which is when the flaps of the valve are floppy or bulge back into an upper heart chamber during a heartbeat. Prolapse is most common in the mitral valve.
With stenosis, the flaps of a valve thicken or stiffen. When this happens, the valve does not open fully, therefore not allowing enough blood to flow through the valve. Some valves can have both stenosis and regurgitation.
What causes heart valve disease?
Congenital heart disease develops before birth and commonly involves pulmonary or aortic valves that did not form properly before birth.
Acquired heart valve disease, a condition that develops over time on normal valves, is more typical in the aortic or mitral valves. This heart disorder can be caused by age-related changes, rheumatic fever, and infections.
Both congenital and acquired heart valve disease can cause stenosis or regurgitation.
What are the symptoms of heart valve disease?
When any of the heart valves stop working properly, your heart may have to compensate by working overtime which ultimately leads to failure. Symptoms of heart disease can include shortness of breath, weakness or dizziness, discomfort in your chest, heart palpitations, swelling in your ankles and more.
Sometimes, symptoms might not appear until middle age or older. As the disease degenerates, without treatment it can lead to heart failure, blood clots, or sudden cardiac arrest.
How is heart valve disease treated?
Each patient is different. Some conditions can be managed without immediate surgery. In time, you may need to have your defective heart valve(s) replaced or reconstructed. Even after reconstruction or replacement, you will need to have regular check-ups with your doctor and possibly take prescribed medicines.
More information: www.yourheartvalve.com