A leaky heart valve occurs if one or more valves does not function well. The human heart has four valves- tricuspid, mitral, pulmonary, and aortic valves. These valves have wings that open and close for every heartbeat to control the flow of the blood in the forward direction. They prevent back flow and thus protect the heart from the accumulation of blood, but leaky heart valves make blood to flow in backward direction, lead to heart diseases and eventually heart failure.
Can a Leaking Heart Valve Cause Death?
A leaky heart valve may cause death if not attended in the right time. Upon noticing the symptoms in the early stages, it is preferable to seek medical emergency and undergo diagnostic tests to determine the stage and the presence of a leaky heart valve. The results will provide the opportunity for the doctor to prepare the necessary treatment that helps in retrieving the symptoms.
Heart Valve Problems
The three primary heart valve problems are stenosis, regurgitation, and atresia.
Regurgitation is a state where the valve does not seal appropriately, which leads to leakage. Because of this, blood flows back into the chamber rather than moving forward. Regurgitation is a common occurrence behind the several causes of heart illnesses. In the United States alone, the development of back flow or the regurgitation is due to prolapse. The prolapse is a condition when the valve flap bulge is back into the upper chamber of the heart during the heartbeat. It affects the mitral valve.
Congenital Heart Disease
Congenital heart disease is a condition where people are born with heart valve problems. It is possible for an individual to develop a leaking heart valve because of the absence of flaps in any of the three valves except the mitral valve that consists of only two flaps. Congenital effects aortic and pulmonary valves. It is possible for both acquired and congenital heart diseases to develop stenosis or back flow diseases.
Causes of a leaky heart valve include:
- Advanced high blood pressure
- Damage or presence of scar tissue
- Atherosclerosis in the aortic valve
- Rheumatic fever
- Infections such as endocarditis
- Carcinoid syndrome
- Diet medicines
- Marfan syndrome
- Metabolic disorders
- Autoimmune disorders
- Radiation therapy.
As the age increases, the valves become stiffer and thicken. Therefore, senior citizens have a high-risk factor when compared with that of the younger generation. People with a record of infective endocarditis, rheumatic fever, or heart failure also possess a high degree of risk of developing a leaky heart valve. The chances are too high for those suffering from coronary heart diseases. Additional risk factors include high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, insulin resistance, diabetes, smoking, lack of physical activity, and family history of heart disease.
The primary symptom of a leaky heart valve is known as a heart murmur. It is possible for the doctor to listen to the same using the stethoscope. In addition to it, the doctor will also place the stethoscope near the lungs to know about the presence of fluid retention. Fluid retention in the lungs determines the abnormal activity of the heart.
Physical examination is painful for a specialist because several patients display heart murmurs without any heart disease and vice versa. The symptoms become worse over a period. It will be difficult to identify the presence of a heart valve disease until the symptoms progress, and the patient reaches middle age. Additional symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
- Swelling of the ankles, abdomen, and feet
- Loss of consciousness
- Increased palpitations
- Irregular heart rhythm
Diagnosing a leaky heart valve is possible using several diagnostic tests. These include EKG, chest x-ray, echocardiography, cardiac catheterization, cardiac MRI, and stress test. The results obtained will be helpful for the doctor to consider the situation of the patient and provide the necessary treatment that helps in retrieving the symptoms and reducing the pain experienced by the patient.
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