A heart consists of four valves that regulate blood flow in the certain direction. If there is a problem in these valves, which interferes with blood flow control, it becomes a heart valve disease. The disease occurs when at least one valve cannot open or close completely, which causes the disruption of the blood flow the heart to the body.
The severity of the disease, the type and the treatment depend on the heart valve that was affected. In some cases it will be necessary to undergo surgery to replace the heart valve or to repair it.
Although heart valve disease can remain asymptomatic for many years, it can cause certain symptoms as follows:
- Heart murmur, which can be detected using a stethoscope
- Tightness in the chest
- Difficulty breathing, which tends to happen when a patient is doing activities or lying down
- Heart arrhythmia
- Swollen abdomen, which frequently occurs in those with advanced tricuspid regurgitation
- Swollen ankles and feet
- Loss of energy
You are recommended to seek medical care if you suspect yourself of having heart valve disease. You might be referred to a cardiologist for further disease diagnosis.
There are four valves in the heart which are responsible for regulating blood flow, namely the mitral, tricuspid, pulmonary and aortic valves. Each valve has leaflets (flaps) which open and close one time per heartbeat to control the blood flow direction, and if the leaflets cannot open or close completely, the blood can flow in an irregular direction.
Many factors such as infections and certain heart conditions can cause heart valve disease among adults as well as congenital heart disease in babies.
Heart valve disease can cause many conditions, including the following:
- Regurgitation: Incomplete closing of the leaflets may cause blood to flow backward through the impaired valve. This condition, which is sometimes called “regurgitant flow”, leads to insufficient blood supply throughout the body which pressures the heart to work harder to increase the blood flow. Most patients with mitral valve prolapse have this problem as the heartbeats cause their valve flaps to go back into the left atrium.
- Stenosis: The narrowing of a valve opening caused by the thickening, stiffening and/or fusing of valve leaflets. If this happens, less blood can go through the disordered valve.
- Atresia: In this condition, the valve is not present in the heart but is instead replaced by a sheet of tissue, which prevents blood from flowing through the heart chambers.
Heart valve disease can be induced by many factors, including:
- Heart-affecting infections
- Having certain kinds of heart disease or heart attack in the past
- Hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, diabetes and some other disorder that are related to the heart disease
- Congenital heart disease
Complications can be caused by heart valve disease, including:
- Heart failure
- Blood clots
- Heart arrhythmia