Heart valve stenosis is a kind of valvular heart disease, or a disease that affects the valves of the heart.
The human heart has four chambers. The upper chambers are called the left and right atriums while the lower chambers are called the left and right ventricles.
These four chambers connect to valves at the exit, that are responsible for maintaining continuous blood flow from the heart to an individual’s entire body.
When they work normally, the heart valves do two things: open all the way to let blood flow through them and keep blood flowing in one direction.
These valves function to stop the blood from flowing backwards, preventing blood rich in oxygen from mixing with blood lacking in oxygen. When one of these valves fails to open or close properly, it is called valvular heart disease, or heart valve disease.
One type of valvular heart disease is heart valve stenosis.
What causes Heart Valve Stenosis?
Valvular heart disease can develop before a person is born, or as one ages. There are multiple causes for Valvular Heart Disease, and not all of them are known.
Here are some of the known causes:
- Rheumatic fever, wherein a bacterial infection may damage the heart. Its sequelae, called rheumatic heart disease, is the result of our body’s exaggerated immune response to the bacteria that caused rheumatic fever.
- Cardiomyopathy, when the heart muscle is diseased, Coronary heart disease and Heart attack
- Atherosclerosis and High blood pressure
- Aortic aneurysms, or the enlargement of the aorta
- Connective tissue diseases
Heart valve stenosis is described as the stiffening of the heart, which can narrow the size of the valve openings. This can lead to a restricted flow of blood.
In severe cases, this can result in the rest of the body not receiving adequate blood flow.
What are the Types of Cardiac Stenosis?
Each valve has its own type of heart valve stenosis.
Pulmonary heart valve stenosis
The pulmonary valve narrows and restricts the flow of oxygen-poor blood towards the lungs. This impedes the blood from picking up oxygen and delivering it to the rest of your body. When the pulmonary valve is narrow, the right ventricle must exert more effort, which leads to increased pressure inside the heart.
Mitral Valve Stenosis
Blood flow from the left atrium to the left ventricle is reduced. This leads to fatigue or shortness of breath since the flow of oxygen-rich blood coming from the lungs is lessened. Mitral Valve Stenosis can cause the left atrium to enlarge and for fluid to build up in the lungs.
Tricuspid Valve Stenosis
Blood flow from the right ventricle to the right atrium is restricted. This may lead to the enlargement of the atrium and affect the pressure and blood flow from surrounding veins and chambers. It can also lead to the right ventricle losing size which may lead to oxygen-poor blood reaching the lungs.
Aortic Valve Stenosis
In this heart valve stenosis, the blood flow is restricted from your heart to the aorta (the main artery leading to the rest of your body). This may lead to your left ventricle pushing harder to let blood flow through. The ventricle can thicken over time and lead to less efficiency in the heart.
Signs and Symptoms
The symptoms for heart valve stenosis may include:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
Doctors can use a stethoscope to listen to your heart and detect if there are any problems.
They listen in on potential clicking sounds or “heart murmurs” that potentially signify heart problems. Other possible diagnostic tests your doctor may perform are:
- Chest x-ray
- Echocardiography to determine how severe the narrowing or regurgitation of blood
- Echocardiography can see these enlarged valves / heart chambers.
- Cardiac MRI to give a three-dimensional image of your heart and valves
- Coronary angiography to identify stenosis or regurgitation, mostly helpful in determining if the patient is in need of surgery
For some people, treatment for heart valve stenosis may not be necessary. Unfortunately for others, surgery might be necessary to replace and repair the affected valve.
Heart valves may be repaired by patching up holes or tears, separating valve leaflets, or reshaping valves so that they can properly open and close.
Valvuloplasty, a process which uses a balloon to dilate the valve, may be considered as an option depending on one’s age and the severity of the condition.
How to Prevent Heart Valve Stenosis
The risk of developing heart valve stenosis can be lowered by adapting a healthy lifestyle. These include:
- Don’t smoke
- Exercise regularly
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Eat a balanced diet
- Consume less alcohol
- Manage your stress
Because the heart is the seat of crucial bodily functions, a disruption in its processes can have grave effects on the rest of the body.
So knowing the heart’s intricacies, from each valve and the function it serves, is one of the best ways to care for our overall health.
Learn more about heart valve disease, here.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.