Heart valve disease can affect any of the valves in the heart. The heart valves have flaps for opening and closing with each heartbeat, allowing blood to flow through the heart of the upper and lower chambers and the rest of the body.
The heart has four valves :
- Tricuspid valve located between the right atrium and the right ventricle
- Pulmonary valve located between the right atrium and the pulmonary artery
- Mitral valve, which is located between the left atrium, and left ventricle
- Aortic valve between the left ventricle and the aorta
Blood flows from the right and left atria across the tricuspid and mitral valve, allowing the blood to flow into the right and left ventricles. These valves then close the blood flowing back into the atria. Once the heart chambers are filled with blood, they begin to contract, forcing the lung and aortic valves to open. Blood then flows into the pulmonary artery and the aorta. The pulmonary artery carries oxygenated blood from the heart to the lungs and the aorta, the body’s largest artery, is responsible for carrying oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body.
Basically, the heart valves work by making sure that blood flows in the forward direction and does not secure or leaks. If an individual has a valvular disease, the valve will not be able to do this job properly. This can be caused by regurgitation, stenosis or a combination of both.
Some individuals may experience no symptoms while other disorders such as strokes, heart attacks and thrombosis occur when the heart valve disease is left untreated.
Valvular heart disease
Mitral valve prolapse
This can also be called floppy valve syndrome, click marbles syndrome, balloon mitral valve or Barlow syndrome. It occurs when the mitral valve does not close properly, sometimes causing blood to flow back into the left atrium.
Most people with mitral valve prolapse do not require symptoms and no treatment as a result. However, symptoms such as palpitations, shortness of breath, chest pain, fatigue and coughing may indicate that treatment is necessary.
The treatment includes surgery to repair or replace the mitral valve.
Bicuspid aortic veins
This happens when a person is born with an aortic valve that has two valves instead of the usual three. In very severe cases, symptoms of this type of disorder are present at birth. However, some people may know that they have decades to go without this type of disorder. The valve is usually able to work for years without causing any symptoms, so most people with premolar aortic valve disease are usually diagnosed only in adulthood. According to the Cleveland Clinic, 80 percent of people with this form of heart valve disease will be operated to repair or replace the valve, which usually happens when they are in their 30s or 40s.
Symptoms include shortness of breath during exercise, chest pain and dizziness or fainting. Most people are able to successfully repair their aortic valve with surgery.
This occurs when a valve is unable to fully open, which means that insufficient blood is able to flow through the valve. This can affect one of the heart valves, and can be caused by the heart valve thickening or stiffening.
Symptoms can include chest pain, shortness of breath, tiredness, dizziness and fainting. Some people do not need treatment. Other people may use valvuloplasty, which uses a balloon to inflate the valve or flap replacement surgery.
This can also be called a “leaky valve” and occurs when one of the heart valves does not close properly, causing the blood to flow backwards. Symptoms include shortness of breath, coughing, tiredness, palpitations, drowsiness and swelling of the feet and ankles.
The effects of valve failure vary from person to person. Some people need to monitor their condition. Others may need prescribed medications to prevent fluid retention while others have valve repair or replacement.
Causes Of Valvular Heart Disease
There are a number of causes of various heart valve diseases. Causes can be :
- birth defect
- Endocarditis inflammation of the heart tissue
- Rheumatic fever inflammatory disease brought on after group A streptococcal infection
- Age-related changes, such as calcification
- Heart attack
- coronary artery disease
- Cardiomyopathy degenerative changes in the heart muscle
- Syphilis is a relatively rare sexually transmitted infection
- Aortic aneurysms abnormal swelling or protrusion of the aorta
- Atherosclerosis Arteriosclerosis
- myxomatous degeneration weakening of the connective tissue in the mitral valve
- Lupus a chronic autoimmune disease,
Heart Valve Disease Symptoms
Symptoms of heart valve disorders according to the severity of the disease. Usually, the onset of symptoms indicates that the disorder is affecting blood flow. Many people with mild or moderate valvular heart disease experience no symptoms. However, symptoms can be :
- shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Dizziness and fainting
- a headache
- to cough
- Water retention or swelling in the lower extremities and abdomen
- Pulmonary edema or excess fluid in the lungs
How are heart valve diseases diagnosed?
If you have symptoms of heart valve disease, your doctor will start by listening to the heart using a stethoscope. He or she will listen for any heart rate abnormalities that might indicate a problem with the heart valves. Your doctor may also listen to the lungs to determine if there is fluid retention as well as check your body for signs of water retention, both symptoms of heart valve problems.
Other tests that can diagnose for valvular heart disease include :
- Electrocardiogram is a test that shows the electrical activity of the heart. This test is used to check arrhythmia.
- Echocardiography uses sound waves to create an image of the heart valves and chambers.
- Cardiac catheterization is another test to diagnose valve disorders. This test uses a thin tube or catheter with a camera to take pictures of the heart and blood vessels. This can help to determine with your doctor the nature and severity of the disease valve.
- A chest x-ray can be ordered to take a picture of your heart. This may be your doctor if your heart is enlarged.
Magnetic resonance imaging can create a more detailed picture of the heart. This can help to confirm a diagnosis and help your doctor determine how best to treat your valve disorder.
A stress test can also be used to determine how the symptoms are affected by physical exertion. The information from the stress test can help your doctor determine the severity of your condition.
Treatments for heart valve disorders depend on the severity of the disease and symptoms. Most doctors recommend starting with conservative treatment. This includes :
- consistent medical supervision
- a healthy diet
Medications that are usually prescribed are :
- Beta blocker and calcium channel blocker to help control heart rate and blood flow
- Reduce diuretics for fluid retention
- vasodilating drugs that open or dilate the blood vessels
Surgery may be needed if the symptoms increase in severity. This can be used to repair heart valves with patient’s own tissues or heart valve replacement with animal valves, donated valves, mechanical or valves.
Valvuloplasty can also treat the stenosis. A small balloon inserted into the heart, where it is slightly puffed up. The inflation will be the size of the opening in the valve and then the balloon is removed.