Any of your heart’s valves might be affected by heart valve diseases. The flaps on your heart valves open and close with each pulse, allowing blood to flow through the upper and lower chambers of the heart and out to the rest of your body. The atria are the top chambers of the heart, while the ventricles are the lower chambers.
The four valves in your heart are as follows:
- The tricuspid valve is a valve that connects the right atrium to the right ventricle.
- The pulmonary valve is a valve that connects the right ventricle to the pulmonary artery.
- The mitral valve is a valve that connects the left atrium to the left ventricle.
- The aortic valve is a valve that connects the left ventricle to the aorta.
The tricuspid and mitral valves open to allow blood to flow into the right and left ventricles, respectively, from the right and left atria. These valves shut, preventing blood from returning to the atria.
When the ventricles are full with blood, they contract, causing the pulmonary and aortic valves to open. Following that, blood travels to the pulmonary artery and aorta. From the heart to the lungs, the pulmonary artery transports deoxygenated blood. The aorta, the body’s biggest artery, transports oxygen-rich blood throughout the body.
The heart valves keep blood flowing in the right direction and prevent it from backing up or leaking. If you have a heart valve issue, the valve is incapable of performing this function effectively. This can be caused by blood leakage (regurgitation), a narrowing of the valve opening (stenosis), or a combination of the two (regurgitation and stenosis).
Some patients with heart valve disorders have no symptoms, while others may have complications such as strokes, heart attacks, and blood clots if the illness is left untreated.
What Is Heart Valve Disease and How Does It Affect You?
When the heart valves don’t operate properly, it’s called heart valve disease.
What Is the Function of Heart Valves?
The heart valves are located at the exits of each of your four heart chambers and keep blood flowing in one direction through your heart. The four heart valves ensure that blood flows freely in the forward direction and that no backward leakage occurs.
The open tricuspid and mitral valves allow blood to pass from your right and left atria into your ventricles.
The tricuspid and mitral valves close when the ventricles are full. While the ventricles contract, blood does not flow backward into the atria.
The pulmonic and aortic valves are driven open when the ventricles contract, and blood is poured out of the ventricles. The open pulmonic valve allows blood from the right ventricle to flow into the pulmonary artery, while the open aortic valve allows blood from the left ventricle to flow into the aorta and the rest of the body.
The aortic and pulmonic valves close when the ventricles stop contracting and start relaxing. Blood cannot flow back into the ventricles because of these valves.
With each pulse, this process is repeated, causing blood to flow constantly to the heart, lungs, and body.
What Kinds of Heart Valve Disease Are There?
Heart valve disease can in a variety of forms:
Valvular stenosis is the narrowing of the valves of the heart.
When the leaflets of a heart valve are stiff or fused, the valve does not fully open. Because of the restricted aperture, the heart may have to work extra hard to pump blood through it. Heart failure and other symptoms may result as a result of this . Tricuspid stenosis, pulmonic stenosis, mitral stenosis, and aortic stenosis are all conditions that can cause stenosis in any of the four valves.
Insufficiency of the valves
When a valve does not seal tightly, it is known as regurgitation, incompetence, or “leaky valve.” Some blood will escape backward over the valve if the valves do not seal. As the leak progresses, the heart has to work harder to compensate for the leaking valve, and blood flow to the rest of the body may be reduced. The disorder is referred to as tricuspid regurgitation, pulmonary regurgitation, mitral regurgitation, or aortic regurgitation depending on which valve is afflicted.
Heart Valve Disease: What Causes It?
Congenital heart valve disease develops before birth, and acquired heart valve disease develops later in life. The etiology of valve disease is sometimes unknown.
Valve illness that is present at birth. The aortic or pulmonic valves are most commonly affected by this type of valve disease. Valves might be the wrong size, have malformed leaflets, or have incorrectly connected leaflets.
Aortic bicuspid valve disease. The aortic valve is affected by this congenital valve disease. The bicuspid aortic valve contains just two leaflets or cusps instead of the usual three. The valve may be stiff (unable to open or close correctly) or leaky if the third leaflet is missing (not able close tightly).
Valve illness that has developed over time. This includes issues that arise with previously normal valves. Changes in the structure of your valve might occur as a result of a range of illnesses or infections, such as rheumatic fever or endocarditis.
Rheumatic fever is a kind of rheumatic disease. It’s caused by a bacterial infection that hasn’t been treated (usually strep throat). Since the development of antibiotics to treat it in the 1950s, this illness has been considerably less prevalent. The first infection mainly affects youngsters and produces heart valve inflammation. However, symptoms associated to inflammation may not appear for another 20 to 40 years.
Endocarditis. This happens when organisms, particularly bacteria, enter the circulation and assault the heart valves, resulting in growths, holes, and scarring. Leaky valves might result as a result of this. Endocarditis microorganisms can enter the bloodstream through dental treatments, surgery, IV medication usage, or serious illnesses. People with valve problems are more likely to get endocarditis.
The valves of the heart can undergo a variety of alterations. The chordae tendineae or papillary muscles may stretch or rip; the valve annulus may dilate (widen); or the valve leaflets may become fibrotic (stiff) and calcified.
Mitral valve prolapse (MVP) is a somewhat common illness that affects 1% to 2% of the population. During heart contraction, MVP causes the mitral valve leaflets to flop back into the left atrium. The tissues of the valve become aberrant and elastic as a result of MVP, causing the valve to leak. However, the illness seldom causes symptoms and is typically untreatable.
Coronary artery disease, heart attack, cardiomyopathy (heart muscle illness), syphilis (a sexually transmitted disease), high blood pressure, aortic aneurysms, and connective tissue disorders are some of the other reasons of valve disease. Tumors, some medicines, and radiation are some of the less prevalent reasons of valve dysfunction.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of a Heart Valve Problem?
The following are some of the signs and symptoms of heart valve disease:
Shortness of breath and/or difficulty catching one’s breath. When you are active (performing your typical daily tasks) or lying flat in bed, you may sense this the most. To breathe easier, you may need to sleep raised up on a couple pillows.
Weakness or vertigo. It’s possible that you’ll feel too weak to go about your everyday routine. Dizziness is another symptom, and passing out is a possibility in certain situations.
You’re feeling uneasy in your chest. When you exercise or walk outside in the chilly air, you may feel a pressure or weight in your chest.
Palpitations. This might manifest as a racing heart, an irregular heartbeat, skipped beats, or a fluttering sensation in your chest.
Your ankles, feet, or abdomen may swell. Edema is the medical term for this condition. You may feel bloated if your stomach is swollen.
Gaining weight quickly. It is possible to gain 2 or 3 pounds in a single day.
The severity of your heart valve illness is not necessarily determined by its symptoms. You might have serious valve disease and have no symptoms at all, necessitating immediate treatment. You may have visible symptoms, such as mitral valve prolapse, yet testing may reveal that the valve leak is minor.
Heart Valve Diseases: How Are They Diagnosed?
By talking to you about your symptoms, having a physical exam, and running additional tests, your heart doctor can determine if you have heart valve disease.
The doctor will listen to your heart during a physical exam to hear the noises it produces as the valves open and close. The sound of blood passing through a stenotic or leaky valve is called a murmur. A doctor can also determine whether your heart is enlarged or if your heart rhythm is abnormal.
The doctor will listen to your lungs to see whether you have any fluid retention, which indicates that your heart isn’t pumping as effectively as it should.
The doctor can learn about circulation and the functioning of other organs by examining your body.
The doctor may prescribe diagnostic tests after the physical examination. These may include the following:
- Transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) is a kind of echocardiography that uses sound waves
- Catheterization of the heart (also called an angiogram)
- Your doctor can track the progression of valve disease by doing any or all of these tests over time. This will assist them in making therapy selections.
What Is the Treatment for Heart Valve Disease?
Treatment for heart valve disease is determined on the kind of illness and its severity. Treatment for cardiac valve disease has three goals: preventing future damage to the valve, reducing symptoms, and repairing or replacing valves.
Keeping your valve safe from additional harm. You are more likely to get endocarditis, a dangerous illness, if you have valve problems. Endocarditis is more likely in those who have had their valve medically repaired or replaced.
To protect yourself:
- If you’re experiencing signs of an infection, contact your doctor right once (sore throat, general body aches, fever).
- To avoid infections, take proper care of your teeth and gums. Visit your dentist at least once a year.
- Before any operation that may cause bleeding, such as any dental work (even a simple teeth cleaning), invasive testing (any test that may include blood or bleeding), and any major or minor surgery, your doctor may advise you to take antibiotics. Antibiotic guidelines for which operations and types of valve disease require antibiotics have recently changed, so check with your doctor for the most up-to-date information.