A heart valve problem occurs due to valve disease where the functionality of the valves does not function as they should. The heart has four valves namely pulmonary, aortic, mitral, and tricuspid. Each valve maintains a one-way direction of the blood flow pumped by the heart. These valves ensure that there is no leakage and that the blood flows freely in the forward direction. The flow of blood occurs from the right and left atria through the tricuspid and mitral valves into the ventricles.
How Do You Recognize If You Have A Heart Valve Problem?
Assessing the presence of a heart valve problem depends on the symptoms experienced by the individual. The symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of consciousness
- Discomfort in the chest
- Increased palpitations
- Rapid weight gain
- Swelling of abdomen, ankles, and feet.
Symptoms alone do not provide the relation between the presence of the heart valve problem and its severity. In many situations, an individual can have a severe heart valve problem without displaying any symptoms. In other conditions, where the patient suffers from mitral valve prolapse, diagnosis shows no occurrence of valve leakage while the patient suffers from several symptoms.
Apart from the physical examination, the doctor recommends diagnostic tests for heart valve problem, which include:
- Cardiac catheterization
- Magnetic resonance imaging
- CT scan
- Transesophageal echocardiography.
The doctor repeats the tests and acquires information to note down the progress of the heart valve problem. The data will provide the specialist to make accurate decisions about the treatment.
What Causes A Heart Valve Disease?
An individual can acquire a heart valve disease before birth (congenital) or one’s lifetime. A few of the causes are unknown, while the following are the known reasons behind dysfunction of a heart valve:
Congenital Valve Disease: Congenital valve disease affects the pulmonic or the aortic valve. In this scenario, the valves will possess wrong dimensions and have a malfunctioning leaflet.
Bicuspid Aortic Valve Disease: It affects the aortic valve and has only two leaflets instead of three. Because of the absence of the third leaflet, the valve becomes stiff and leaky.
Acquired Valve Disease- The acquired valve diseases changes the structure of the valve because of diseases or infections that include endocarditis and rheumatic fever.
Other causes of heart valve problem include syphilis, cardiomyopathy, coronary artery disease, hypertension, connective tissue diseases, and aortic aneurysms. The less common reasons that cause damage to the valves include tumors, radiation, and specific use of drugs.
The two common types of valve diseases are:
Vascular Stenosis: Vascular stenosis is a scenario where the opening of the value is small because of stiff leaflets. The narrow opening causes the heart to work harder to overcome the back flow of the blood. It results in heart failure. Vascular stenosis can occur to any of the four valves.
Vascular Insufficiency: Also known as regurgitation, it is a situation where the valve does not close tightly. Because of improper shutdown, blood leaks backward into the valve. The heart functions strenuously to pump the needed blood to make up for the loss of blood. Due to this, the rest of the body receives a reduced flow of blood. Depending on the affected valve, the condition leads to mitral regurgitation, pulmonary regurgitation, tricuspid regurgitation, and aortic regurgitation.
Mitral Valve Prolapse: It is another common condition that affects around 2% of the entire population. In this case, the leaflets of the mitral valve flap back into the left atrium. It causes the tissue to become abnormal and leaky. It rarely displays symptoms and may not require treatment.