Heart valve disease is a condition when one or more valves in the heart don’t function well. The heart has four valves that maintain blood flow in the proper direction. In some instance, when valves do not open or close properly, it can lead to disturbed blood flow via the heart to the rest of the system. The heart valves have flaps that open and close with every heartbeat, which allows the blood to flow through the heart’s upper and lower chambers to the rest of the body. The upper chambers of the heart are the atria and lower chambers are the ventricles.
The heart has four valves:
The tricuspid valve, located between the right atrium and the right ventricle
The pulmonary valve, located between the right ventricle and pulmonary artery
The mitral valve, located between the left atrium and left ventricle
The aortic valve, located between the left ventricle and the aorta
Blood flows from the right and left atria via the tricuspid and mitral valves, which open to let blood to flow into the right and left ventricles. These valves are then close to averting blood from flowing back into the atria. As the gets filled with ventricles blood they contract forcing the pulmonary and aortic valves to open. The pulmonary artery carries deoxygenated blood from the heart to the lungs, whereas the aorta which is the largest artery, carries oxygenated blood to the rest of the system.
The heart valves function by guaranteeing that blood flow in a forward direction and does not back up or leakage.
Heart valve disease may be congenital or it can also develop in adults due to several reasons and health conditions which include:
The valve flaps don’t close properly causing blood to leak backwards into the heart. This commonly happens due to valve flaps bulging back, a disorder called prolapse.
In valve stenosis, the valve flaps become thick or stiff or they may meld together, which leads to narrowed valve opening and insufficient blood flow through the valve.
Atresia is a disorder where the valve is not formed, where a solid sheet of tissue blocks the blood flow between the heart chambers.
Some people with heart valve disease may not show any symptoms for years together. Signs of heart valve disease include:
- Abnormal heart murmur
- Chest Pain
- Abdominal swelling
- Shortness of breath, when you lie down or after exertion
- Swelling of feet
- Irregular heartbeat
Some of the factors which can increase the risk of heart valve disease, including:
- Older age
- Any infections that can affect the heart
- High blood pressure, dyslipidemia, diabetes and other heart diseases
- Congenital heart problems
Heart valve disease can cause many complications, including:
Diagnosis And Treatment
The doctor may assess the patient's signs and symptoms and conduct a thorough physical check-up, where the doctor may listen for a heart murmur as this can be a sign of a heart valve condition. The doctor may usually also suggests conducting several tests to diagnose the condition which include:
This test examines the structure of the heart, valves and blood flow through the heart. It also helps the doctor to get a close look at the heart valves and how they function.
This test can detect enlarged chambers of the heart and for any abnormal heart rhythms.
Chest X-ray may help the doctor to find out whether the heart is enlarged and also assess the condition of the lungs.
This test determines the severity of the condition and examines the size and function of lower heart chambers (ventricles).
Different stress or exercise tests help assess activity tolerance and monitor the heart’s response to physical exertion.
This test is performed to diagnose heart valve disease when all other tests are not able to diagnose the severity of the condition.
The treatment mode for heart valve disorders depends on the severity of the condition. Generally, most doctors begin with conservative management which includes:
- Getting regular medical check-ups
- Quit smoking
- Eating a well-balanced and nutritious diet, low on fat and salt.
- Certain medications are also prescribed which include beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers that assist to control heart rate and blood flow.
- Diuretics to lower fluid retention.
- Vasodilators to dilate blood vessels.
- Surgery is needed if the symptoms worsen such as heart valve repair or valvuloplasty to treat stenosis.