About heart disease: heart valve disease

What is heart disease: heart valve disease?

According to the American Heart Association, about 5 million Americans are diagnosed with valvular heart disease each year.

What Is Valvular Heart Disease?

Heart valve disease occurs when your heart's valves do not work the way they should.

How Do Heart Valves Work?

Your heart valves lie at the exit of each of your four heart chambers and maintain one-way blood flow through your heart. The four heart valves make sure that blood always flows freely in a forward direction and that there is no backward leakage.

Blood flows from your right and left atria into your ventricles through the open mitral and tricuspid valves.

When the ventricles are full, the mitral and tricuspid valves shut. This prevents blood from flowing backward into the atria while the ventricles contract (squeeze).

As the ventricles begin to contract, the pulmonic and aortic valves are forced open and blood is pumped out of the ventricles through the open valves into the pulmonary artery toward the lungs, the aorta, and the body.

When the ventricles finish contracting and begin to relax, the aortic and pulmonic valves snap shut. These valves prevent blood from flowing back into the ventricles.

This pattern is repeated over and over, causing blood to flow continuously to the heart, lungs and body.

What Are the Types of Valve Disease?

There are several types of valve disease:

  • Valvular stenosis. This occurs when a valve opening is smaller than normal due to stiff or fused leaflets. The narrowed opening may make the heart work very hard to pump blood through it. This can lead to heart failure and other symptoms (see below). All four valves can be stenotic (hardened, restricting blood flow); the conditions are called tricuspid stenosis, pulmonic stenosis, mitral stenosis or aortic stenosis.

  • Valvular insufficiency. Also called regurgitation, incompetence or "leaky valve", this occurs when a valve does not close tightly. If the valves do not seal, some blood will leak backwards across the valve. As the leak worsens, the heart has to work harder to make up for the leaky valve, and less blood may flow to the rest of the body. Depending on which valve is affected, the conditioned is called tricuspid regurgitation, pulmonary regurgitation, mitral regurgitation or aortic regurgitation.


What are the symptoms for heart disease: heart valve disease?

Some people with heart valve disease might not have symptoms for many years. When signs and symptoms occur, they might include:

What are the causes for heart disease: heart valve disease?

Chambers and valves of the heart Open pop-up dialog box Close Chambers and valves of the heart Chambers and valves of the heart

A typical heart has two upper and two lower chambers. The upper chambers, the right and left atria, receive incoming blood. The lower chambers, the more muscular right and left ventricles, pump blood out of the heart. The heart valves, which keep blood flowing in the right direction, are gates at the chamber openings.

A normal heart and heart valve problems Open pop-up dialog box Close A normal heart and heart valve problems A normal heart and heart valve problems

Heart valve problems may include a narrowed valve (stenosis), a leaking valve (regurgitation) or a valve with leaflets that are bulging back (prolapse), as shown in the bottom two images. Normal heart valves and blood flow are shown in the top image.

The four heart valves, which keep blood flowing in the right direction, are the mitral, tricuspid, pulmonary and aortic valves. Each valve has flaps (leaflets) that open and close once per heartbeat. If one or more of the valves fail to open or close properly, the blood flow through your heart to your body is disrupted.

Heart valve disease may be present at birth (congenital). It can also occur in adults due to many causes and conditions, such as infections and other heart conditions.

Heart valve problems include:

  • Regurgitation. The valve flaps don't close properly, causing blood to leak backward in your heart. This commonly occurs due to valve flaps bulging back, a condition called prolapse.
  • Stenosis. The valve flaps become thick or stiff and possibly fuse together. This results in a narrowed valve opening and reduced blood flow through the valve.
  • Atresia. The valve isn't formed, and a solid sheet of tissue blocks the blood flow between the heart chambers.

What are the treatments for heart disease: heart valve disease?

How Is Heart Valve Disease Treated?

Treatment for heart valve disease depends on the type and severity of valve disease. There are three goals of treatment for heart valve disease: protecting your valve from further damage; lessening symptoms; and repairing or replacing valves.

Protecting your valve from further damage.

If you have valve disease, you are at risk for developing endocarditis, a serious condition. People who have mitral valve prolapse without thickening or regurgitation/leaking are not at risk of developing endocarditis.

You are still at risk for endocarditis, even if your valve is repaired or replaced through surgery. To protect yourself:

  • Tell your doctors and dentist you have valve disease. You may want to carry an identification card with this information. The American Heart Association website (www.americanheart.org) has a bacterial endocarditis wallet card that you may download; or call your local American Heart Association office or the national office at 1-800-AHA-USA1.
  • Call your doctor if you have symptoms of an infection (sore throat, general body aches, fever).
  • Take good care of your teeth and gums to prevent infections. See your dentist for regular visits.
  • Take antibiotics before you undergo any procedure that may cause bleeding, such as any dental work (even a basic teeth cleaning), invasive tests (any test that may involve blood or bleeding), and most major or minor surgery. Your doctor can provide you with a card that provides specific antibiotic guidelines.

Medications. You may be prescribed medications to treat your symptoms and to lessen the chance of further valve damage. Some medications may be stopped after you have had valve surgery to correct your problem. Other medications may need to be taken all your life. Medications may include:

Common Types of Medications What They Do Diuretics ("water pills") Remove extra fluid from the tissues and bloodstream; lessen the symptoms of heart failure Antiarrhythmic medications Control the heart's rhythm Vasodilators Lessen the heart's work. Also encourages blood to flow in a forward direction, rather than backwards through a leaky valve. ACE inhibitors A type of vasodilator used to treat high blood pressure and heart failure Beta blockers Treat high blood pressure and lessen the heart's work by helping the heart beat slower and less forcefully. Used to decrease palpitations in some patients. Anticoagulants ("blood thinners") Prolong the clotting time of your blood, if you are at risk for developing blood clots on your heart valve.

Follow your doctor's orders when taking medications. Know the names of your medications, what they are for, and how often to take them.

Surgery and Other Procedures. The diagnostic tests your heart doctor orders help to identify the location, type, and extent of your valve disease. The results of these tests, the structure of your heart, your age, and your lifestyle will help your cardiologist (heart doctor), surgeon, and you decide what type of procedure will be best for you.

Surgical options include heart valve repair or replacement. Valves can be repaired or replaced with traditional heart valve surgery or a minimally invasive heart valve surgical procedure. Heart valves may also be repaired by other procedures such as percutaneous balloon valvotomy.

What are the risk factors for heart disease: heart valve disease?

Several factors can increase your risk of heart valve disease, including:

  • Older age
  • History of certain infections that can affect the heart
  • History of certain forms of heart disease or heart attack
  • High blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and other heart disease risk factors
  • Heart conditions present at birth (congenital heart disease)

Is there a cure/medications for heart disease: heart valve disease?

Any of a number of disorders that impair the proper function of one or more of your heart's valves are referred to as heart valve disease. Heart valve problems can make your heart work harder if it is not treated. Your quality of life may be negatively impacted, and it can even endanger your life.

  • Despite the fact that medication can be extremely useful, none of them can stop a valve from leaking. Similarly, there is no medicine that can open a valve that is excessively narrow.
  • But occasionally it is decided that taking the medication is the best line of action. The person for whom this choice may be most suitable has very mild valve disease or for whom surgery is not an option.
  • Although medications cannot treat heart valve dysfunction, they can occasionally be effective in treating the symptoms brought on by the condition. These medicines could consist of:
  • Medications to control heart rate and assist avoid irregular heart rhythms, such as beta-blockers, digoxin, and calcium channel blockers.
  • Drugs to lower blood pressure, such as diuretics (medications that increase urine production to remove excess bodily water) or vasodilators (medications that relax blood vessels to lessen the force the heart must pump against).
Shortness of breath,Chest pain,Fatigue (low energy),Lightheadedness,Feeling dizzy, and/or fainting,Difficulty when exercising,Swollen ankles and feet,Rapid or irregular heartbeat
Aortic stenosis,Mitral valve stenosis,Pulmonary valve stenosis,Tricuspid valve stenosis,Aortic regurgitation/insufficiency,Mitral regurgitation/insufficiency,Pulmonary insufficiency,Tricuspid insufficiency

Video related to heart disease: heart valve disease