Heart valve disease
heart is a muscle which pumps blood to your lungs and around the
rest of your body.
There are four chambers to your heart which are separated by
valves to make sure that the blood flows in one direction
through the heart.
The two large blood vessels that leave the heart also have
valves to make sure that the blood does not go back into the heart
once it has been pumped out.
What causes heart valve disease?
The main causes of heart valve disease are:
What happens to heart valves?
A diseased or damaged valve can affect the flow of blood in two
- If the valve does not open fully, it will obstruct the flow of
blood. This is called valve stenosis or
- If the valve does not close properly, it will allow blood to
leak backwards. This is called valve incompetence
or regurgitation or a leaky
Both of these will put extra strain on the heart and if you
have stenosis, the valve can restrict the flow of blood making
your heart pump harder to force the blood past the
narrowing. If you have incompetence, a leaking valve may mean that
your heart has to do extra work to pump the required volume of
blood through the heart.
What are the symptoms of heart valve disease?
You may not experience any symptoms but if you so some of
the common symptoms are:
- being out of breath
- swelling of the ankles and feet
- being unusually tired
How is heart valve disease diagnosed?
You may be visiting your doctor because you are
experiencing some of the symptoms listed above. Or you may not have
any symptoms but your doctor has said that they can hear a
murmur (an unusual sound) when they listen to your
heart. A murmur does not always mean that there is a problem
with your heart as people with normal hearts may also have
Your doctor may suggest that you have further tests to see how
well your heart is working. The most common test is an echocardiogram which uses sounds waves to look
at the structure of your heart. It is similar to an ultrasound scan
used to look at babies before they are born.
How is heart valve disease treated?
You may not need any treatment at all but your doctor may ask
you to come back in a year's time or if your symptoms get worse.
Most valve problems however can be treated using medicines or by
surgery. Your treatment will depend on the cause of your
problem and the effect that it is having on your heart.