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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.

What is a heart murmur?

A heart murmur is an unusual heartbeat that your doctor can hear through a stethoscope and is the main sign of heart valve disease. If you have a murmur, it does not always mean you have a heart valve problem.

Some heart valve problems are minor and do not need treatment while other heart valve problems are more serious and require treating with medicine, a procedure or surgery. Heart tests can confirmif you have heart valve disease.

Having defective or diseased heart valves can make it difficult to lead an active life. For some patients, it may be life-threatening. Your heart may have to work harder or blood may back up in your lungs or body also known as regurgitation.

Types of Heart Valve Diseases

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

  • Severe Aortic Stenosis: 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.

  • Mitral Valve Prolapse (MVP): 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.

    In MVP, when the left ventricle contracts, one or both flaps of the mitral valve bulge back (prolapse) into the left atrium. A tight seal may not be able to form and blood may leak back into the atrium. This condition is called mitral valve regurgitation. This backflow does not happen for most people who have MVP. In rare cases, it can cause shortness of breath, irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias), endocarditis (an infection of the inner lining of the heart chambers and valves) or chest pain.

  • Endocarditis: Endocarditis is an infection of the inner lining of your heart chambers and valves. This occurs when germs (bacteria) enter your bloodstream and travel to your heart.

Find a Physician

Find a physician online or call 215-345-2121 (Monday–Friday, 8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m.) to speak with a referral counselor.