What is heart valve disease?
Heart valve disease is a disease or damage to one or more of your heart valves, affecting the way blood flows through your heart. It puts additional stress on your heart, causing chest pain, shortness of breath, and fatigue. Heart valve disease can range from mild to severe and can sometimes be fatal and requires emergency treatment.
Heart valves have flaps that open and close with each beat, allowing blood to flow through the upper and lower chambers of the heart and to the rest of your body. The upper chambers of the heart are atria and the lower chambers of the heart are ventricles.
The heart has four valves: Mitral, tricuspid, aorta, and pulmonary. These valves make sure your blood flows in the same direction it travels through your heart. When one or more of these valves stop working properly or efficiently, it can cause damage to the heart. This is called heart valve disease.
Types of heart valve disease
The following types of heart valve diseases are:
Mitral valve disease: Mitral valve prolapse is a very common condition that affects 1% to 2% of the population. During MVP contraction of the heart, the mitral valve leaflets return to the left atrium. MVP can also cause the valve tissue to become abnormal and stretch, causing the valve to leak. However, this condition rarely causes symptoms and generally does not require treatment.
Tricuspid valve disease: The tricuspid valve is located in the middle of the heart’s right upper chamber, called the right atrium, and the right ventricle is called the right ventricle. If this valve does not develop properly before you are born, there may not be an opening that allows the blood to return from your body to pump oxygen to your lungs and lungs.
Aortic valve disease: It is a condition that occurs when your aorta (the main artery of your body) and left ventricle (the lower left chamber of your heart) malfunction. The aortic valve defines how blood flows from your left ventricle to your aorta.
There are two different types of aortic valve disease: Aortic stenosis and aortic regurgitation. In the case of aortic stenosis, the opening of the aortic valve is narrow, resulting in limited blood flow to the aorta. During aortic regurgitation, some of the blood returns to the left ventricle because the aortic valve is not closed enough.
Pulmonary valve disease: It is located between the right ventricle and the pulmonary artery. This condition is characterized by a pulmonary valve that does not open wide enough, causing the right ventricle to pump strongly and dilate.
Forms of heart valve disease are:
- Stenosis (or narrowing of the valve): The opening of the valve (s) becomes narrow, restricting blood flow from the ventricles or atria. The heart sends blood with greater force to move blood through narrow or narrow (stenotic) valves.
- Regurgitation (or leakage of the valve): The valve (s) do not close completely, causing blood to flow back through the valve. The heart has to pump more blood in the next beat, which works harder.
Causes of heart valve disease
Causes of heart valve disease are:
- Congenital defect: This disease can be congenital and affect the anatomy of the heart.
- Family history: Heart valve disease is sometimes more common in some families.
- Infection or inflammation: This causes scar tissue to form in the heart and makes it difficult for the valves to open and close properly.
- Age: The muscles of our heart valves weaken or become damaged as we age, which is why the elderly are usually diagnosed.
Risk factors for heart valve disease
Risk factors for heart valve disease are:
- Age: People are living longer than ever, but there is an increased risk of heart valve disease as life expectancy increases.
- Other heart conditions: If you have a history of other heart problems, you are at risk for heart valve disease.
- Endocarditis: Endocarditis is the endocardium, the lining of the heart valves, and chambers of the heart.
- Rheumatic fever: Rheumatic fever is caused by the same bacteria that cause strep throat. It usually only occurs in people who have not received treatment for their strep throat. Rheumatic fever can cause permanent damage to the heart muscle and valves, as your body tries to fight infections, such as narrowed valves or leaky valves.
- High blood pressure: The power of your blood when high blood pressure pushes into your arteries.
- Smoking: It is a major risk factor for all types of heart disease. If you smoke, the chemicals in tobacco can change the way your heart and blood vessels work.
Signs and symptoms of heart valve disease
The main symptom of heart valve disease is an abnormal beat called a heart murmur. Your doctor can listen to a heart murmur with a stethoscope.
However, most people have a heart murmur without heart valve disease or other heart problems. Others may have a heart murmur due to heart valve disease, but no other signs or symptoms.
Heart valve disease often worsens over time, so signs and symptoms may appear a few years after the heart murmur is first heard. Most people with heart valve disease have no symptoms until they reach middle age or are older.
These signs and symptoms include:
- Increasing shortness of breath
- Palpitations (skipped beats or a flip-flop feeling in the chest)
- Edema (swelling of the ankles, feet, or abdomen)
- Weakness or dizziness
- Quick weight gain
- Chest discomfort
Diagnosis of heart valve disease
If your heart sounds abnormally through a stethoscope, your doctor may think you have heart valve disease. This is normally the first step in diagnosing heart valve disease. A heart murmur (abnormal sounds in the heart due to turbulent blood flow through the valve) often signifies regurgitation or valve stenosis. To better define the type of valve disease and the extent of valve damage, doctors may use any of the following tests:
- Electrocardiogram (ECG): A test that records the electrical activity of the heart shows abnormal rhythms (arrhythmia) and can sometimes detect damage to the heart muscle.
- Echocardiogram (echo): This noninvasive test uses sound waves to evaluate the heart’s chambers and valves. The echo sound waves create an image on the monitor when the ultrasound transducer passes over the heart. This is the best test to evaluate the function of the heart valve.
- Transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE): The test involves inserting a small ultrasound transducer into the esophagus. Sound waves create an image of the heart’s valves and chambers on a computer monitor without ribs or lungs.
- Chest X-ray: This test uses invisible beams of electromagnetic energy to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs on film. An X-ray shows enlargement in any area of the heart.
- Cardiac catheterization: The test involves inserting a small, hollow tube (catheter) through a large artery in the leg or arm that goes to the heart to provide images of the heart and blood vessels. This procedure can help determine the type and extent of certain valve disorders.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): This test uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequency boxes, and a computer to create detailed images of organs and structures in the body.
Treatment for heart valve disease
The following is an overview of treatment options for heart valve disease:
- Do not smoke: Follow preventive tips for a heart-healthy lifestyle. Avoid excessive alcohol consumption, high salt intake, and diet pills, all of which can raise blood pressure.
- Your doctor may use a “watch and wait” approach for mild or asymptomatic cases.
- To prevent bacterial endocarditis, a course of antibiotics is recommended before surgery or dental work for people with valvular heart disease.
- Chronic antibiotic therapy is recommended to prevent a recurrence of streptococcal infection in people with rheumatic fever.
- People with valvular heart disease may be prescribed antithrombotic (clot-prevention) medications such as aspirin or ticlopidine (see the disorder for more information) after experiencing unexplained ischemic attacks, also known as ITPs.
- Stronger anticoagulants, such as warfarin, are indicated for those who continue to experience TIA despite atrial fibrillation (a common complication of mitral valve disease) or early treatment. Valve reconstruction establishment prolonged administration of anticoagulants after surgery may be necessary because prosthetic valves have an increased risk of blood clots.
- Balloon dilation (a surgical technique that involves inserting a small balloon into a blood vessel, leading into a narrow space through the catheter, and then inflated) can be performed to dilate the stenotic valve.
- Valve surgery may be required to repair or replace a damaged valve. Replacement valves can be made of artificial tissue (prosthetic valves). The type of valve that is selected for re-installation depends on the age, condition, and specific valve of the patient.
The success rate for heart valve surgery is high. The surgery will relieve your symptoms and prolong your life.
Mechanical heart valves often do not fail. However, blood clots can form on these valves. If a blood clot structures, you may have a stroke. Bleeding can occur but is very rare. Tissue valves last an average of 12 to 15 years, resting on the type of valve. Long-term use of medications is not usually necessary to thin the blood with tissue valves.
There is always the risk of infection. Talk to your doctor before any medical procedure.
Department to consult for this condition
- Department of Cardiology