Heart Valve Disease: All You Need to Know

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Update Date 01/06/2020 . 1 min read
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Know the basics

What is heart valve disease?

What is the definition of heart valve disease? It is a condition where your heart valves don’t function as they should. There are four valves in your heart, and each is responsible for guiding blood flow in the correct direction. During each heartbeat, the valves open and close once. But when the opening and closing of your heart valves malfunction, it can disrupt the blood flow, cause leakages or blood flow may even back up.  

Heart valve disease includes any condition that is related to the valves, which are the atrial, pulmonary, mitral and tricuspid valves.

Some people with heart valve disease will not develop any symptoms. Others may experience heart attack, stroke, or blood clots. Heart valve disease can lead to many other heart conditions, like hypertension and heart failure.

Read on if you want to know the definition of heart valve disease and learn about its symptoms, risk factors, diagnosis and treatments.

How common is heart valve disease?

This health condition can affect individuals at any age, but it is more common in those with birth defects or older people. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. 

Know the symptoms

What are the symptoms of heart valve disease?

Heart valve disease can result in a variety of symptoms. The common signs and symptoms of heart valve disease are:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart palpitations
  • Fatigue
  • Discomfort or pain in chest
  • Dizziness or weakness
  • Fainting
  • Swelling of ankles, feet, or abdomen
  • Rapid weight gain

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about any of the symptoms above, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any of the symptoms listed above, consult with your doctor. He or she will listen to your heart with a stethoscope to detect any abnormalities, as well as check your lungs and examine your body for water retention.

Know the causes

What causes heart valve disease?

In some cases, heart valve disease is a birth defect. However, this condition is often a medical condition with other causes. Some conditions that can lead to heart valve disease are:

  • infective endocarditis, which is an inflammation of the heart tissue;
  • rheumatic fever, which is an inflammatory disease brought on by an infection with group A streptococcus bacteria;
  • An aortic aneurysm, which is an abnormal swelling or bulging of the aorta;
  • atherosclerosis, which is a hardening of the arteries;
  • myxomatous degeneration, which is a weakening of connective tissue in the mitral valve;
  • lupus, which is a chronic autoimmune disorder;
  • coronary artery disease;
  • cardiomyopathy and syphilis;
  • connective tissue diseases;
  • tumors; 
  • some types of drugs;
  • radiation.

Know the risk factors

What increases my risk for heart valve disease?

There are many risk factors for heart valve disease, such as:

  • Age
  • History of heart disease.
  • Pre-existing conditions such as heart infections: endocarditis rheumatic fever 
  • Hypertension
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Congenital heart disease (present at birth)

Understand the Diagnosis & Treatment

How is heart valve disease diagnosed?

To diagnose your heart valve disease, your doctor can listen to your heart through a stethoscope during a physical exam. Your doctor may detect an abnormal heart sound or murmur on your physical examination. But may also detect irregular heart rate that can indicate a problem with your heart valves.

Other tests after a physical exam are imaging tests and tests for your blood flow. Then, your doctor can monitor your heart valve’s processes and choose a suitable treatment.

    • Chest X-Ray: This test will show your doctor the shape, size and position of the heart;  sometimes heart valve disease can enlarge the heart.
    • ECG, which may help diagnose those with normal heart sounds because it can detect abnormal heart rhythm as well as enlargement of the heart’s chambers
    • Echocardiography and transesophageal echocardiography: These tests use soundwaves (ultrasound) to produce detailed pictures of your heart and the arteries.
    • Cardiac catheterization: This test allows the doctor to see if there is any abnormality in your blood flow which can be caused by your valves.

How is heart valve disease treated?

Based on how severe your heart valve disease is, and what symptoms you have, your doctor can suggest some treatments for you. You may be required to get consistent medical supervision, and as with any heart disease, it’s a good idea to stop smoking if you smoke, and adopt a healthy diet.

Your doctor can prescribe you some medications to treat your condition. These may be beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers that help control heart rate and blood flow, diuretics to reduce fluid retention, or vasodilators which open or dilate blood vessels.

If you are already in severe condition, surgery may be needed. Typically, surgery involves heart valve repair using your own tissue. An animal valve may be used if you’re having a biological valve replacement. Or your doctor may use a donated valve from another person, or an artificial valve.

Lifestyle Changes & Home Remedies

Now that you know the definition of heart valve disease, what are some lifestyle changes that can help you to manage this condition? The following might help you cope:

  • Know the type and extent of your heart valve disease;
  • Let your cardiologist explain and discuss the symptoms you need to watch out for
  • Tell all your doctors and your dentist that you have valve disease;
  • Call the doctor if you begin to show any symptoms of an infection;
  • Take good care of your teeth and gums;
  • Take antibiotics before you undergo any procedure that may cause bleeding;
  • Take your medications according to your doctor’s instructions;
  • Visit your doctor regularly.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

by My Nguyen

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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