Heart Valve Disease: All You Need to Know

Heart Valve Disease: All You Need to Know

What is Heart Valve Disease?

What is the definition of heart valve disease? It refers to any of several conditions that prevent one or more of the valves in your heart from working right.

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 heart valves that control blood flow malfunction, the blood flow might be disrupted, leak, or 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 formation of blood clots. Heart valve disease can lead to many other heart conditions, like hypertension and heart failure.

Read on to learn more about the definition of heart valve disease and learn about its symptoms, causes, risk factors, diagnosis and treatments.

Signs and Symptoms

Heart valve disease can manifest in a variety of symptoms. The common signs and symptoms of heart valve disease, in general 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.

Doctor will auscultate your heart with a stethoscope to detect any abnormalities, as well as check your lungs and examine your body for water retention.

Causes and Risk Factors

In some cases, heart valve disease is a birth defect or congenital. 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

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.

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

  • Age
  • History of heart disease
  • History or pre-existing conditions, such as heart infection and rheumatic heart disease
  • History of heart attack
  • Hypertension
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Congenital heart disease (present at birth)

Diagnosis & Treatment

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

This may aid in detection of 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 the severity of the disease heart valve and the symptoms presented, the doctor can suggest some treatments for you. As with any heart condition, you may require ongoing medical attention. Nevertheless, it is a good idea to cease smoking if you smoke, and adopt a balanced 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.

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

Sources

Heart valve disease.

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-valve-disease/basics/definition/con-20036065. Accessed July 9, 2016.

Testing for Heart Valve Problems.

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/More/HeartValveProblemsandDisease/Testing-for-Heart-Valve-Problems_UCM_450776_Article.jsp#.V4DVEriLTIU. Accessed July 9, 2016.

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Written by Vincent Sales Updated 2 weeks ago
Medically reviewed by Mae Charisse Antalan, MD