Heart Valve Disease
What is heart valve disease?
Heart valve disease happens if one or more of your heart valves don’t work well. Many things can cause one or more of your heart valves to not open fully or to let blood leak backward into the heart chambers: birth defects, age-related changes, infections, or other conditions. Whatever the cause, valve disease can make your heart work harder and affect its ability to pump blood.
Heart valves can have three basic kinds of problems: regurgitation (re-GUR-jih-TA-shun), stenosis (ste-NO-sis), and atresia (a-TRE-ze-ah).
- Also called backflow
- Happens if a valve doesn't close too tightly. Instead of flowing forward through the heart or into an artery, blood leaks back into the chambers
- Usually due to a condition called “prolapse.” Prolapse means that the flaps of the valve flop or bulge back into an upper heart chamber during a heartbeat.
- Prolapse happens mostly in the mitral valve
- Happens if the flap of a valve thicken, stiffen, or fuse together. This prevents the heart valve from fully opening.
- As a result, not enough blood flows through the valve
- Some valves can have both stenosis and backflow problems
- Happens if a heart valve doesn’t have an opening for blood to pass through.
Some people are born with heart valve disease (that’s called “congenital” heart valve disease), while others get it later in life. Both kinds of heart valve disease can cause stenosis or backflow.
What’s the Prognosis?
Lots of people have heart valve defects or disease but don’t have symptoms. For others, heart valve disease gets worse over time until symptoms develop. These symptoms can include:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
As of now, no medicines can cure heart valve disease. However, lifestyle changes and medicines can relieve many of its symptoms and complications.
Eventually, you may need to have your faulty heart valve repaired or replaced. Your doctor will perform physical examinations and tests to help decide on the best course of treatment for you.