The heart acts as a pump to distribute blood throughout the body. It has four compartments, two upper (atria) and two lower (ventricles). Before leaving these compartments, the blood passes through parts of the heart that act like gates called heart valves.
There are four valves: the mitral, aortic, tricuspid and pulmonary. Each one serves a special purpose and helps control the blood flow so that the body can continue to function well.
What is heart valve disease?
The valves of the heart open and close to regulate the blood flow into the heart and then away from the heart. Heart valve disease occurs when one or more of the four heart valves don’t work rightly.
Any valve in the heart can become diseased. A healthy heart valve can completely open and close during the heartbeat, whereas diseased valves can’t.
A heart valve disease can appear from two primary conditions that include the following.
- Stenosis: When the opening of one or more valves becomes narrowed, it restricts the blood flow away from the chambers. This compels the heart to pump blood with immense force to push the blood forward through a damaged valve.
- Regurgitation: When one or more valves do not close completely, it causes blood to flow backwards through the valve. This reduces the blood flow forward.
Heart valves can suffer both regurgitation and stenosis concurrently. Also, multiple valves can be affected at the same time.
Heart valve disease symptoms
Patients with mild to moderate valve disease might not show any visible symptoms for many years. A few common heart valve disease symptoms include:
- Chest pain
- Heart murmur
- Rapid weight gain
- Irregular heartbeat
- Abdominal swelling
- Swelling of ankles and feet
Heart valve disease causes
Several things can cause heart valve disease. It depends on the type of disease, including congenital conditions, infections, degenerative, and conditions linked to other kinds of heart disease and may include the following.
- Rheumatic infection: The infection can cause scarring of the heart valve. This is one of the most common causes of heart valve disease.
- Endocarditis infection: A condition of the inner lining of the heart valves caused by a severe infection in the blood.
- Congenital valve disease: Malformations of the heart valves, such as missing one of its flaps.
- Heart failure: Heart failure happens when the heart cannot pump enough blood and oxygen to organs in the body.
- Atherosclerosis: Atherosclerosis refers to a buildup of plaque on the inside of the blood vessel.
- Thoracic aortic aneurysm: Bulge or ballooning where the aorta attaches to the heart.
- Myocardial infarction (heart attack): Damage to the muscles that control the opening and closing of the heart valve.
- Marfan syndrome: A connective tissue disease that damages the heart valves.
Heart valve disease diagnosis
To define the type of valve disease and the extent of the valve damage, we use the following tests.
- X-ray: Electromagnetic energy beams produce images of tissues, bones, and organs onto film.
- Electrocardiogram (ECG): The heart’s electrical activity is recorded through ECG. It also indicates arrhythmias and detects heart muscle damage.
- Echocardiogram (Echo): This is the most suitable test to evaluate heart valve disease. It assesses the chambers and the valves of the heart.
- Transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE): An ultrasound transducer is passed into the oesophagus to produce an image of the heart valves and chambers.
- Cardiac catheterization: A tube called a catheter is passed through a large artery in the leg or arm and leads to the heart to provide images of the heart and blood vessels.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): A combination of large magnets, and radio frequencies, to produce detailed images of organs and structures.
Heart valve disease treatment
Heart valve disease treatment includes medication or surgery to repair or replace the valve. Heart valve disease cure depends on the kind of valve disease and may include.
- Medicines: Beta-blockers, digoxin, calcium channel blockers, diuretics, and vasodilators reduce symptoms of valve disease.
- Surgery: Remodeling diseased valves and heart valve replacement may be needed to repair or replace the malfunctioning valve(s).
- Balloon valvuloplasty: A non-surgical procedure in which a catheter is put into a blood vessel in the inguinal region and directed into the heart. The catheter’s tip has a deflated balloon which is later inflated to open the valve and then retreated.
Heart valve disease prevention
Not every cause, like growing older, can be prevented, but a heart-healthy lifestyle can go a long way toward heart valve disease prevention.
- Visit the doctor and maintain regular heart checkups.
- Maintain everyday physical workouts and a balanced diet.
- Avoid red meat foods high in sugar and fat, and salt.
- Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and recreational drugs, especially IV drugs.
- Continue medication for hypertension and/or hypercholesterolemia.
Heart valve disease is a significant cause of cardiovascular diseases and deaths worldwide. However, with early detection, patients can get treatment at the right time. The diagnostic imaging and laboratory systems at the CK Birla Hospital are available around the clock for timely investigations. We are equipped with cutting-edge technologies to provide thorough lab tests, radiology tests and other advanced tests.