Heart Valve Disease: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment
The circulatory system’s blood arteries are used by the heart, a muscular organ, to pump blood. The pumped blood carries nutrients and oxygen to the body while carrying metabolic waste such as carbon dioxide to the lungs.
Diseases in the heart valve can affect any of the valves in your heart. The cause can be a narrowing of the valve opening (stenosis), a leakage of blood (regurgitation), or a combination of the two.
Some people with a heart valve (valvular) disorder might not have any symptoms. However, it can lead to heart failure if left untreated, with symptoms that get worse over time. This may result in a fatal ventricular arrhythmia, depending on how poorly your heart is working. Talk with your doctor about any symptoms you have that you are concerned about, and make sure you schedule routine checkups with your doctor. This will increase the likelihood that your doctor will identify any potentially dangerous issues early on.
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What is Heart Valve Disease?
One or more of your heart’s valves may not function correctly if you have heart valve disease.
Your heart has 4 valves that keep blood flowing in the correct direction. In some cases, one or more of the valves do not open or close properly. This may interrupt the blood flow from your heart to the rest of your body.
Your heart valve disease treatment depends on the severity and type of the disease and the heart valve affected. Sometimes heart valve disease requires surgery to replace or repair the heart valve.
What Are the Symptoms of Heart Valve Disease?
It is common for people with heart valve disease to be without symptoms. But when the issue with your heart valve gets worse, your heart has to work harder to compensate for the decreased blood flow. Over time, heart valve disease might get bad enough that these symptoms begin to appear:
- If the valve disease is caused by infection, you might notice body aches, chills or fevers
- Chest discomfort, especially when you exert yourself
- Rapid weight gain
- Dizziness or weakness
- Swelling of the abdomen, feet or ankles (oedema)
- A flip-flop feeling in the chest or skipped beats (palpitations)
- Increasing shortness of breath, especially lying down or with physical activity
What Are the Causes of Heart Valve Disease?
There are several causes of heart valve disease, including degenerative conditions (wearing out with age), infections, congenital conditions (being born with it) and conditions linked to other types of heart disease.
- Rheumatic Disease, is the failure to administer antibiotics to a patient who has contracted the streptococcus bacterium. The heart valve may become scarred as a result of the infection. In the whole world, this is the most typical cause of valve illness.
- Endocarditis is an infection of the inner lining of the heart caused by a severe infection in the blood. The infection may spread to the heart valves and harm the leaflets there. Intravenous drug use can also lead to endocarditis and cause heart valve disease.
- Congenital heart valve disease refers to heart valve defects, such as missing leaflets. The most commonly affected valve with a congenital defect is a bicuspid aortic valve, which has only 2 leaflets rather than 3.
- Other types of heart disease:
- Heart failure happens when the heart cannot pump enough oxygen and blood to support other organs in your body.
- Aortic atherosclerosis at the place where it connects to the heart. Plaque buildup within blood arteries is known as “atherosclerosis.” Plaque is made up of cholesterol, calcium and fat.
- A thoracic aortic aneurysm is a ballooning or bulge where the aorta attaches to the heart.
- High blood pressure.
- A heart attack (also known as MI or myocardial infarction), can damage the muscles that control the opening and closing of the valve.
- Autoimmune disease, like lupus.
- Marfan syndrome is a connective tissue disorder that can harm heart valves.
- Exposure to high-dose radiation might lead to calcium deposits on the valve.
- The ageing process can cause calcium deposits to develop on the heart valves, making them thickened or stiff and less efficient with age.
How is Heart Valve Disease Diagnosed?
If you are experiencing symptoms of heart valve disease, your doctor will begin by listening to your heart with a stethoscope. They will listen for any heart rate abnormalities that may indicate a problem with your heart valves.
Your doctor might also listen to your lungs to determine if there is fluid buildup and check your body for signs of water retention. These are both signs of heart valve problems.
Other tests that might be used to diagnose heart valve disorders include the following:
- Stress test: To tell your doctor how bad your problem is, you can utilise this to ascertain how exertion affects your symptoms.
- MRI scan: This might provide a more detailed picture of your heart.
- Chest X-ray: This might be ordered to take a picture of your heart.
- Cardiac catheterization: This test uses a catheter or thin tube with a camera to take pictures of your blood vessels and heart.
- Transesophageal echocardiogram and echocardiogram: The former is done via a probe placed on the chest, whereas the latter involves putting the probe into the oesophagus. Both tests use sound waves to create a picture of the heart chambers and valves.
- Electrocardiogram: This test can detect aberrant cardiac rhythms by displaying the electrical activity of the heart.
You Can Also Read: Cardiac Arrest vs. Heart Attack: Know the Key Differences & Signs
What is the Treatment for Heart Valve Disease?
Treatments for heart valve disease depend on the symptoms and severity of the disorder. Most doctors suggest beginning with conservative treatments, which include:
- following a healthy diet
- quitting smoking
- getting consistent medical supervision
Medications that are typically prescribed are:
- vasodilators, which are drugs that dilate or open blood vessels
- diuretics to reduce fluid retention
- calcium channel blockers and beta-blockers, which help control blood flow and heart rate.
You might need surgery if your symptoms increase in severity. This might include a heart valve repair using one of the following:
- an artificial or mechanical valve
- a donated valve from another person
- an animal valve if you have a biological valve replacement
- your tissue
Valvuloplasty might also be used to treat stenosis. During valvuloplasty, your doctor inserts a small balloon into your heart, where it is inflated slightly. The inflation increases the size of the opening in the valve, and then the balloon is removed.
Another less invasive option is TAVR (Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement), in which the surgeon replaces the blocked or narrowed heart valve through a catheter.
Heart valve disease affects the valves in your heart and may not display any symptoms. In case of no treatment, it can lead to heart failure with symptoms becoming worse over time. It is always advisable to seek medical help from an experienced cardiologist. Timely care and help can ensure an appropriate diagnosis and treatment of your condition.
At the CK Birla Hospital, we ensure patients get holistic medical support which includes treatment in a compassionate environment. This patient-centric approach not only helps patients heal better but also ensures they are aware of the preventive measures as well. In case you need to consult a cardiologist, reach out to us, or book a direct appointment with Dr. Sanjeeva Kumar Gupta at the CK Birla Hospital.
Can Heart Valve Disease Be Fixed?
Most heart valve conditions are treatable. Medicine might treat symptoms or prevent the condition from getting worse. Your doctor might also suggest surgery or another procedure to replace or repair a faulty heart valve.
When to See a Cardiologist for Heart Valve Disease?
You will need to book regular follow-up appointments with your cardiologist to make sure your heart valves work as they should. Contact your provider sooner if your symptoms become more frequent or severe.
Who is at Risk for Heart Valve Disease?
A family history of early coronary heart disease can raise your risk of developing a heart valve disease. Risk factors for other types of heart disease might put you at risk for heart valve diseases too, like obesity, smoking, unhealthy eating patterns and a lack of physical activity.
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