The American Heart Association puts the figure of patients suffering from heart valve diseases at 5 million. A heart valve disease occurs when there is improper functioning of any of the four valves – the pulmonary, aortic, tricuspid, and mitral. These valves function as one-way direction control valve allowing the blood pumped by the heart to flow to different parts of the body. The stop the reverse action of the pumped blood, thereby preventing numerous problems and death.
What is the Most Common Heart Valve Disease?
The common heart valve diseases that most suffer from are:
Vascular Stenosis: Vascular stenosis is one of the most common heart valve diseases and it is a condition where the leaflets present in the valve fail to operate smoothly. Except for the mitral valve, the remaining three valves consist of three leaflets that open and close to send the blood pumped by the heart. When these leaflets become stiff, they fail to open or close appropriately. The narrow opening causes the heart to work strenuously to make up for the loss. The excessive stress leads to heart failure. Any of the valves can develop stenosis leading to pulmonary stenosis, aortic stenosis, tricuspid stenosis, or mitral stenosis.
Vascular Insufficiency: Termed as regurgitation or leaky valve, vascular insufficiency is also one of the common heart valve diseases. It occurs when a valve fails to close completely. Due to the gap, there is leakage of blood. The leakage can cause the blood to flow back. To make up for the losing blood, the heart beats excessively. The stress increases when the situation of the leakage becomes worse. The condition causes decreased blood flow to the rest of the body. The occurrence can affect any of the valves and leads to pulmonary regurgitation, aortic regurgitation, mitral regurgitation, and tricuspid regurgitation.
Patients suffering from a valve disease do not show the signs until the situation reaches a severe condition. The progress of damage to the valve heart is slow and therefore becomes difficult to point out its presence in the initial stage. However, the following are noticeable when the situation turns severe:
- Chest pain
- Swelling in knee, abdomen, and feet
- Loss of consciousness.
It is probable to notice the residence of a heart valve problem through physical examination, where the doctor hears the abnormal heart murmurs through a stethoscope. The review also helps in noticing the presence of liquid in the lungs. Depending on the unusual sounds and other symptoms stated by the patient, the doctor orders for diagnosis, which includes:
Treatment of the heart valve disease comprises the use of medicines and surgery. However, a doctor first examines the condition of the patient with the help of the tests mentioned above. Multiple screenings are essential before the doctor establishes an answer to the treatment. The monitoring will help learn about the progress of the illness. In many cases, surgery is the answer, as it helps in replacing the damaged heart valve.
Replacing the damaged heart valve includes replacing it with that of a mechanical valve or a biological valve. Selecting between the both is a tough choice, and therefore, the doctor considers the age of the patient, undergoing treatments, overall health condition, and the risks involved in the operation.
A mechanical valve is suitable for younger patients because of its lifespan. A biological valve functions between eight and fifteen years, given that the patient follows a healthy lifestyle. When the doctor chooses the mechanical valve, the patient requires the use of warfarin, the blood-thinning medicine to prevent blood clots. When opted for the biological valve, the patient does not need the use of the medicine. However, the patient may require an additional replacement in the future.