Heart valve disease involves damage to one or more of the heart’s valves. This can reduce blood flow and lead to major complications- including death.
What Are Heart Valves and How Do They Work?
Your heart contains four chambers, a right and left atrium (top), and a right and left ventricle (bottom). Your heart valves are located at the exit of each chamber and control blood flow. Heart valves maintain one-way blood flow and stop blood from leaking backward in the heart.
What Is Heart Valve Disease?
Heart valve stenosis means heart valves have become hardened and restrict blood flow. A stenotic valve has a narrowed opening which makes the heart have to work harder to pump blood through.
Heart valve insufficiency is caused by a valve that does not close or seal properly. This allows blood to leak backwards (regurgitation) throughout the heart and causes less blood to be pumped to the rest of the body. The heart will have to work harder to pump blood to the body.
What Causes Heart Valve Disease?
Heart valve disease can be present at birth or develop later in life. Acquired valve disease develops in relation to infection or disease that affect the heart, such as rheumatic fever, or endocarditis.
What Are the Symptoms of Heart Valve Disease?
Heart valve disease may cause shortness of breath during normal activities or when you lie flat. Weakness, dizziness and fainting may occur. Some people notice a pressure or weight in their chest when entering cold air and sometimes notice feelings of palpitations. Swelling in feet, ankles, abdomen, or rapid weight gain might be noted.
Heart valve disease is commonly diagnosed through an echocardiogram, cardiac catheterization, or MRI.
Treatment of heart valve disease depends on the type and severity of the disease. Treatment varies from protecting the valve from further damage, treating symptoms, and repairing or replacing damage valves.