Cause: Congenital Heart Diseases
Sometimes heart valve diseases develop simply because of old age, as your body starts to wear down and work a bit slower than it used to. However, there are a few other causes that you should be aware of.
First up are congenital heart diseases. In other words, your predetermined genetics make you more likely to develop heart valve disease. In most cases, congenital valve disease affects the aortic or pulmonary valves. They could be the wrong size, have malformed leaflets, or have leaflets that dont attach properly. Again, these are essentially birth defects that you might only notice as your body gets older and grows.
How Do Your Heart Valves Function
Your heart valves prevent the backward flow of blood as it is pumped into and out of your heart. They act as a one-way inlet of blood on one side of a ventricle and a one-way outlet of blood on the other side of a ventricle. As the heart muscle contracts and relaxes, the valves open and close, letting blood flow into the ventricles and out to the body at alternate times.
Seeing Your Heart Doctor For Regular Visits
You will need to schedule regular follow-up appointments with your cardiologist to make sure your heart valves work as they should. Ask your doctor how frequent theses should be spaced. Call your doctor sooner if your symptoms become more severe or frequent.
The Miller Family Heart, Vascular & Thoracic Institute surgeons and cardiologists specialize in the treatment of valve disease. The team approach at the Miller Family Heart, Vascular & Thoracic Institute at Cleveland Clinic ensures that patients receive the best care before, during and after their valve procedure.
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They’re all working to help patients beat heartbreak forever: finding better treatments for people with heart and circulatory disease, and developing new ways to prevent or diagnose it.
How Are Heart Valve Disorders Diagnosed
If youre experiencing symptoms of a heart valve disorder, your doctor will begin by listening to your heart with a stethoscope. Theyll listen for any heart rate abnormalities that might indicate a problem with your heart valves. Your doctor may also listen to your lungs to determine if theres fluid buildup and check your body for signs of water retention. These are both signs of heart valve problems.
Other tests that may be used to diagnose heart valve disorders include the following:
- An electrocardiogram is a test that shows the electrical activity of the heart. This test is used to check for abnormal heart rhythms.
- An echocardiogram uses sound waves to create a picture of the heart valves and chambers.
- Cardiac catheterization is another test used to diagnose valve disorders. This test uses a thin tube or catheter with a camera to take pictures of your heart and blood vessels. This can help your doctor determine the type and severity of your valve disorder.
- A chest X-ray may be ordered to take a picture of your heart. This can tell your doctor if your heart is enlarged.
- An MRI scan may provide a more detailed picture of your heart. This can help confirm a diagnosis and allow your doctor to determine how to best treat your valve disorder.
- A stress test can be used to determine how your symptoms are affected by exertion. The information from the stress test can inform your doctor how severe your condition is.
- getting consistent medical supervision
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What Is Heart Valve Disease
Heart valve disorders can arise from 2 main types of problems:
Regurgitation . When the valve do not close completely, it causes blood to flow backward through the valve. This reduces forward blood flow and can lead to volume overload in the heart.
Stenosis . When the valve opening becomes narrowed, it limits the flow of blood out of the ventricles or atria. The heart is forced to pump blood with increased force to move blood through the narrowed or stiff valve.
Heart valves can develop both regurgitation and stenosis at the same time. Also, more than one heart valve can be affected at the same time. When heart valves fail to open and close properly, the effects on the heart can be serious, possibly hampering the heart’s ability to pump enough blood through the body. Heart valve problems are one cause of heart failure.
Cause: Mitral Valve Prolapse
The final major cause of heart valve disease is known as mitral valve prolapse . Its a very common condition, affecting as many as 2-percent of the entire population. In short, this causes the leaflets of the mitral valve to accidentally drop into the atrium when the heart contracts. This can cause the valve to become stretchy and create leaks. This is one of the most mild forms of heart valve disease, as it rarely even comes with symptoms and typically doesnt even require treatment.
There are a number of other less common causes of heart valve disease, including coronary artery disease, heart attack, cardiomyopathy, syphilis, high blood pressure, aortic aneurysms, connective tissue diseases, tumors, radiation, and some types of drugs. Be sure to disclose any of these things to your doctor if heart valve disease becomes an issue.
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How Do I Book An Appointment Or Find Directions
The Heart & Vascular Center is located in the Shapiro Cardiovascular Center, across the street from the Brigham’s main 75 Francis Street entrance. The Heart & Vascular Center brings together the full range of services in one location, fostering seamless and coordinated care for all cardiovascular patients.
What Should You Expect
Cardiovascular specialists from the Brigham and Womens Hospital Division of Cardiovascular Medicine and the Division of Cardiac Surgery offer collaborative, comprehensive inpatient and outpatient clinical services to adults with heart valve disease. Part of the Heart & Vascular Centers Surgical Treatment of Heart Valve Disease program, these services include a broad range of innovative diagnostics and leading-edge medical, interventional and surgical therapies such as three-dimensional echocardiography, transcatheter aortic valve replacement , repair of tricuspid and pulmonic valves, homograft valve replacement for endocarditis, and repair and replacement of aortic valves and mitral valves.
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Types Of Heart Valves
There are two main types of valves that affect the heart: mitral and aortic.
- Mitral valve: Allows blood to flow from the left atrium to the left ventricle of the heart
- Aortic valve: Allows blood to flow from the left ventricle to the aorta, and out to the body
Some people experience issues with the tricuspid valve and pulmonary valve , but these are less common in adults.
Common Heart Valve Conditions
Regurgitation and stenosis can happen on their own or together, and they can technically occur in any valve. However, some valves are more commonly affected than others.
Mitral valve prolapse
Mitral valve prolapse, or MVP, is a heart valve disorder that occurs in about 2% of the population. Its also known as floppy valve syndrome, click-murmur syndrome or Barlows syndrome.
In cases of MVP, the mitral valve doesnt close correctly. Part of one or both of the valves leaflets collapses and protrudes up into the left atrium, which allows some blood to leak back through.
Mitral valve prolapse and blood flowing back into the left atrium. Video footage from Physiology & Pathology.
According to the American Heart Association, bursts of rapid heartbeat , chest discomfort, and fatigue are common symptoms. Most of the time, MVP isnt life-threatening, but if there is significant regurgitation, complications such as heart attack, stroke, or arrhythmias may occur.
The aortic valve is the one most commonly affected by heart valve disease. The American Heart Association reports that more than 20% of Americans over 65 suffer from aortic valve stenosis, in which blood flow is restricted by the narrowing of the aortic valve. Common symptoms include fatigue, chest pain, shortness of breath, and a rapid, fluttering heartbeat. Usually, aortic stenosis in older people is caused by calcium buildup and scarring in the valve cusp.
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How Is Valve Disease Diagnosed
A physical examination may also reveal fluid in the lungs, an enlarged heart, or a heart murmur, which is the sound made by blood moving through a stenotic or a leaky valve. Heart valve disease can also be found on several medical tests:
- Echocardiogram a moving image of the hearts valves and chambers using sound waves from a hand-held wand placed on your chest or passed down your throat
- Cardiac catheterization x-ray movies of the coronary arteries, heart chambers, and heart valves produced by contrast dye injected into a catheter in your arm or leg.
- Electrocardiogram electrical activity of the heart recorded on graph paper, using small electrode patches attached to the skin.
Additional test, such as the transesophageal echocardiogram ,exercise stress echocardiogram,radionuclide scans, and magnetic resonance imaging may also be used.
How Many Types Of Heart Valve Disease Are There
There are multiple types of heart valve disease, which shouldnt come as a surprise considering there are four different valves, each of which can malfunction in their own unique way. Any single valve working improperly can result in disease.
Stenosis is when the opening of a valve narrows, preventing it from letting an adequate amount of blood flow in . Insufficiency is when the valve fails to prevent blood from flowing backwards. All four valves can suffer from stenosis, which can cause the heart to work extra hard to pump blood. All four valves can also suffer from insufficiency, which typically results in the body not getting enough blood flow.
So in total, there are technically eight different types of heart valve disease . It can develop in just a single valve or sometimes in multiple valves simultaneously.
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What Are The Treatment Options For Heart Valve Disease
Heart valve disease initially may be treated medically, but, in most cases, surgery is necessary to repair or replace the damaged valve or valves. Valve surgery involves two major categories valve replacement and valve repair. Valve replacement involves removing the native valve and replacing it with an artificial valve made of either mechanical parts or biological tissues. The choice between a mechanical valve and a biological valve is based on many factors, including:
- Patient preference
- Severity and form of the disease
- Tolerance for specific medications or procedures
- Expectations for course of the disease
- Presence of other conditions
What Causes Heart Valve Damage
The causes of heart valve damage vary depending on the type of disease present, and may include the following:
Changes in the heart valve structure due to aging
Coronary artery disease and heart attack
Heart valve infection
The mitral and aortic valves are most often affected by heart valve disease. Some of the more common heart valve diseases include:
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Heart Valve Disease Doesn’t Always Come With Symptoms At First
Sometimes you can develop heart valve disease and not have symptoms right away. Other diseases and illnesses, like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease , have similar symptoms.
This is why it’s so important to ask your doctor about an echocardiogram. Its one of the most accurate ways to tell if you or a loved one has heart valve disease.
How To Treat Heart Valve Disease
Many people with heart valve disease need little or no treatment and can have a good quality of life for many years. Regular check-ups including an echocardiogram may be all you need.
The sort of treatment you need depends on:
- Which valve is affected
- How many valves are affected
- How badly the valve is affected
- How well your heart muscle is coping
- Your symptoms and general health.
Common treatments for heart valve disease include:
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What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Heart Valve Disease
Heart valve disease symptoms can be mild, moderate, or severe. In fact, some people with heart valve disease may not experience any symptoms at all.However, they may still have a valve problem that needs treatment. The signs and symptoms of heart valve disease include:
- Abnormal sound when listening with stethoscope
- Chest pain
- Swelling of ankles and feet
What Are The Types Of Valve Disease
There are several types of valve disease:
- Valvular stenosis. This occurs when a valve opening is smaller than normal due to stiff or fused leaflets. The narrowed opening may make the heart work very hard to pump blood through it. This can lead to heart failure and other symptoms . All four valves can be stenotic the conditions are called tricuspid stenosis, pulmonic stenosis, mitral stenosis or aortic stenosis.
- Valvular insufficiency. Also called regurgitation, incompetence or “leaky valve”, this occurs when a valve does not close tightly. If the valves do not seal, some blood will leak backwards across the valve. As the leak worsens, the heart has to work harder to make up for the leaky valve, and less blood may flow to the rest of the body. Depending on which valve is affected, the conditioned is called tricuspid regurgitation, pulmonary regurgitation, mitral regurgitation or aortic regurgitation.
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Risk Factors And Symptoms
As you get older, your risk of a getting a heart valve disorder increases. You may also be at higher risk if youve had a heart attack or heart failure, or are at risk for coronary artery disease.
Some people with a heart valve disorder experience no symptoms. Those who do may have:
- Heart murmur: An unusual heartbeat
- Chest pain
- Swelling in ankles, feet, or legs
If your doctor hears a heart murmur by listening to your heart with a stethoscope, this may indicate a valve problem. The next step is a referral to a cardiologist for further examination and additional testing, which may include:
Heart Valves And Valve Disease
In this series
There are four common types of valve problem – mitral stenosis, mitral regurgitation, aortic stenosis and aortic regurgitation. See the leaflet called Anatomy of the heart. This includes details about the function of the heart and how the heart beats.
In this article
Heart Valves and Valve Disease
In this article
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Understanding Stenosis And Regurgitation
The heart valves can malfunction either by leaking or by not opening adequately and thus partially blocking the flow of blood through the valve . Stenosis and regurgitation can affect any of the heart valves. These two disorders are shown below affecting the mitral valve.
Normally, just after the left ventricle finishes contracting and starts to relax and fill with blood again , the aortic valve closes, the mitral valve opens, and some blood flows from the left atrium into the left ventricle. Then the left atrium contracts, ejecting more blood into the left ventricle.
As the left ventricle begins to contract , the mitral valve closes, the aortic valve opens, and blood is ejected into the aorta.
In mitral stenosis, the mitral valve opening is narrowed, and blood flow from the left atrium into the left ventricle during diastole is reduced.
In mitral regurgitation, the mitral valve leaks when the left ventricle contracts , and some blood flows backward into the left atrium.
What Does A Heart Valve Disease Diagnosis Mean For Me
Youve been told you have heart valve disease. What does that mean? Can it be treated? Heart valve disease is a disorder that occurs when there is a problem with the function of one or more of your hearts four valves. Understanding how your heart valves function will help you detect potential problems with your heart sooner rather than later.
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Would You Like To Get Some Support
Sometimes it helps to talk to other people living with heart valve disease. HealthUnlocked is our free community where you might find people in a similar situation to you and your family. Read their stories and concerns. Ask your questions and find support. Connect with people who understand.
Overview Of Heart Valve Disorders
, MD, Waitemata Cardiology, Auckland Valvular Disorders
Heart valves regulate the flow of blood through the heart’s four chamberstwo small, round upper chambers and two larger, cone-shaped lower chambers . Each ventricle has a one-way “in” valve and a one-way “out” valve. Each valve consists of flaps that open and close like one-way swinging doors.
In the right ventricle, the inlet valve is the tricuspid valve, which opens from the right atrium, and the outlet valve is the pulmonary valve, which opens into the pulmonary artery.
In the left ventricle, the inlet valve is the mitral valve, which opens from the left atrium, and the outlet valve is the aortic valve, which opens into the aorta.
The mitral and tricuspid valves are held in place by tough, fibrous strings that are connected to thin muscles that attach to the walls of the ventricles.
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How Do Heart Valves Operate
The heart contains four valves two on each side that are designed to keep the blood flowing in and out of your heart in the right direction. The blood flow inside your heart is a one-way street, with the valves ensuring that the right amounts of blood flow into your heart and that none of it accidentally starts to flow backwards.
Blood flows into the ventricles through the atria, while the tricuspid and mitral valves are open. When the ventricles are full, those two valves shut to prevent back flow. When the ventricles contract, the blood is forced through the pulmonary and aortic valves and arteries carry the blood to various parts of the body. Once the force of the blood subsides, those two valves once again shut to prevent blood from travelling in the wrong direction.
This cycle repeats over and over again, cycling your blood through your heart and rest of your body.