Heart & Vascular

Heart Valve Problems and Disease

Heart Valve Problems and Disease

Your heart has four chambers and each chamber has a valve, which include the aortic valve, the mitral valve, the pulmonary valve and the tricuspid valve. The valves open and close to make sure that your blood flows in the right direction. Some people are born with a heart valve problem while others develop heart valve problems that are caused by infections, heart attacks or heart disease.

Our experts develop a personalized treatment plan for your heart valve disease based on the type and severity of your valve disease. Surgery may be required to repair or replace the affected heart valve.

  • Types of Heart Valve Diseases

    Problems and diseases that affect your valves include aortic stenosis, mitral valve prolapse and endocarditis.

    Aortic

    Your aortic valve opens to let blood flow out of your heart and into your aorta, the largest artery in your body. It closes to prevent blood from returning to your heart. If your aortic valve has narrowed and does not open all the way, this is called aortic stenosis. This means that your blood flows less freely. Calcium deposits or scarring may have caused the valve to become hardened or stiff. Congenital birth defects, age or infection of the valve can also cause stenosis.

    Instead of open-heart surgery, our surgeons often perform transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) surgery to replace the aortic valve.

    Mitral

    Heart valve disease commonly affects the mitral valve. The mitral valve allows blood to flow from your heart's left upper chamber (atrium) into the left lower chamber (ventricle). Mitral valve prolapse (MVP) occurs when the valve does not close properly. If your mitral valve doesn't close tightly enough, and blood is flowing backward, our experienced surgeons can perform mitral valve repair.

    Pulmonary

    The pulmonary valve allows blood to flow to your lungs, where it will pick up oxygen. If you have pulmonary valve disease, our team will perform pulmonary valve repair and replacement. Treatment is personalized to each patient and their condition. When a less-invasive procedure is optimal, our experts will perform a balloon valvuloplasty to open the valve.

    Tricuspid

    The tricuspid valve helps control the amount of blood flowing toward your lungs. When a tricuspid valve is affected, our surgeons perform a tricuspid valve replacement or repair.

  • What Causes Heart Valve Disease?

    There are a number of risk factors for heart valve disease. They include:

    • History of endocarditis (an infection of the inner lining of your heart chambers or valves)
    • History of rheumatic fever (a complication associated with strep throat)
    • Older age which causes your heart valve to thicken and become stiffer
    • Prior heart attack or heart failure

    If you have risk factors for coronary artery disease, they put you at a higher risk for developing heart valve disease. They include:

    • Diabetes
    • Family history of early heart disease
    • High blood cholesterol
    • High blood pressure
    • Lack of physical activity
    • Obesity
    • Resistance to insulin
    • Smoking

    Some people have a congenital condition called bicuspid aortic valve. This means that your aortic valve has two flaps instead of three. This condition places you at a higher risk for developing aortic heart valve disease.

    Talk with your doctor about your risk factors, especially if you have any symptoms of heart valve problems or disease.

  • What are the Symptoms of Heart Valve Disease?

    Your symptoms may vary based on the type and severity of heart valve disease. Common symptoms include:

    • Chest pain
    • Fatigue
    • Shortness of breath
    • Palpitations caused by irregular heartbeats
    • Dizziness
    • Low or high blood pressure, depending on which valve disease is present
    • Lightheadedness or fainting
    • Leg swelling

    In addition to these symptoms, different types of heart valve disease have other symptoms. Talk with your doctor about any symptoms of heart valve problems you may have.

  • How is Heart Valve Disease Diagnosed?

    Screening Tests

    These tests help in diagnosing heart valve problems:

    Other Tests and Procedures

    If you are diagnosed with heart valve disease, your doctor may recommend other tests and procedures. These tests help your doctor learn about your condition and plan your treatment. They may include:

  • Heart Valve Treatment

    Heart valve treatment protects your heart from further damage. Your doctor may recommend certain medications if your condition is minor or you are not a good candidate for surgery. Medications can help you manage your symptoms. They can also help decrease the risk of further problems. However, no medication can stop your valve from leaking.

    To restore your heart valve's function, you will need valve surgery. Surgery may involve valve replacement or valve repair. Minimally invasive valve surgery is an option for many patients.

  • Heart Valve Disease Post Care and Prevention

    Some heart valve problems are minor and do not need treatment. Other heart valve problems are more serious and require medicine, a medical procedure or surgery.

    If you have advanced heart valve disease, you may need to have valve surgery to repair or replace your valves. If left untreated, advanced heart valve disease can be life-threatening and may cause heart failure.

    Talk with your doctor about heart valve disease prevention, your condition and your concerns.

    Managing Heart Valve Problems

    Visit your doctor regularly and keep your medical appointments as scheduled. You may have an echocardiogram or other tests to check your condition.

    Let your doctor know if your symptoms change or get worse. Call your doctor if you experience symptoms of endocarditis. Classic symptoms include fever, chills and sweating. They can also include fatigue, weakness and muscle or joint aches.

    Lead a heart-healthy lifestyle. Avoid smoking. Limit your intake of alcohol and caffeine. Get regular exercise. Maintain a healthy weight. Follow a heart-healthy diet. The American Heart Association is a good source of information.

    Support for Living with Heart Valve Problems

    As a patient of the Valve Clinic, you will receive a treatment plan that is tailored just for you. Talk with your doctors about any concerns you may have. We are here to help and guide you as you live with this condition.

    How to Help Prevent Heart Valve Problems

    The best way to handle heart valve disease prevention is to take steps to lower your risk for heart disease. You can do that by leading a heart-healthy lifestyle:

    • Do not smoke
    • Get regular exercise and be physically active
    • Follow a diet that is low in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol and includes a variety of vegetables, whole grains and fruits
    • Maintain a healthy weight

    Medicines aimed at preventing a heart attack, high blood pressure or heart failure may help.

    Heart valve disease is sometimes caused by rheumatic fever. This is an inflammatory disease that occurs following strep throat. Signs of strep throat include a painful sore throat, fever and white spots on your tonsils. See your doctor if you have signs of a strep infection.

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