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What is valvular heart disease?

The human heart has four valves- mitral, tricuspid, aortic, and pulmonary. These valves help blood to circulate in and out of the heart in a controlled way, thereby preventing back flow into the heart. This functioning of the heart is disturbed in valvular heart diseases. The various types of valvular heart disease include:

  • Regurgitation: Leaking of blood in wrong direction (backward flow)
  • Mitral valve prolapse: When the flap of the mitral valve doesn’t close tightly and is floppy
  • Stenosis: Narrowing of the valve causing blockage of blood flow

What are its main signs and symptoms?

During the early stages of valvular heart disease, no symptoms may be noticeable. Some people may feel exhausted while performing physical activities, so, they may refrain to avoid the feeling of breathlessness or tiredness. Some of the signs and symptoms commonly seen in this condition include:

  • Feeling of extreme exhaustion, fatigue or weakness
  • Activity or sometimes even lying down may cause shortness of breath
  • Swollen ankles, feet or belly
  • Palpitations
  • An unusual heartbeat or a heart murmur
  • In individuals mainly with aortic or mitral valve stenosis, dizziness or fainting is seen

What are the main causes?

The main causes leading to valvular heart diseases include:

How is it diagnosed and treated?

Valvular heart disease causes a heart murmur, which is the most common sign of this disease and might be felt by your physician during an examination with a stethoscope. In cases where murmurs are absent, the following tests might be suggested by the physician if suspicious of valvular heart disease to check the functioning of the heart and its structure:

  • Chest X-ray
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG)
  • Echocardiogram
  • Stress test
  • Angiogram

Treatment depends on the severity of the condition, and some minor cases might not even require any treatment. The condition is treated with the aim of relieving the symptoms and repairing the valves. The various treatment options available include lifestyle, medications, and procedures to repair the valve.

Lifestyle changes include:

  • Adopt a healthy diet
  • Quit smoking
  • Refrain from competitive athletic activity
  • Avoid overexertion
  • Medications include drugs for the following functions:
  • Treat blood pressure and manage heart rate using beta blockers, vasodilators, ACE inhibitors
  • Prevent blood clotting using blood thinners
  • Help remove excess fluid from the body by use of diuretics
  • Manage heart’s rhythm using anti-arrhythmic drugs
  • Procedures to treat the damaged or diseased valve:
  • Valve repair is also called valve replacement, which might be advised in some individuals depending on the severity of disease, age of the individual, and other comorbidities.
  1. Medicines for Valvular Heart Disease

Do you or anyone in your family have this disease? Please do a survey and help others

References

  1. American College of Cardiology. Understanding Heart Valve Disease Washington [Internet]
  2. American College of Cardiology. Valvular Heart Disease Washington [Internet]
  3. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: US National Library of Medicine; Heart Valve Diseases
  4. Kameswari Maganti et al. Valvular Heart Disease: Diagnosis and Management . Mayo Clin Proc. 2010 May; 85(5): 483–500. PMID: 20435842
  5. Cleveland Clinic. [Internet]. Cleveland, Ohio. Valve Disease Types

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