The four valves in your heart help to regulate the flow of blood through it by keeping the blood flowing in the right direction. When they fail to open and close properly, this can result in some serious problems. Several diseases of the heart valves can cause this problem, and surgery is generally needed to provide repair or to replace the valves.
Depending on the severity of the diseased valves, there can be some serious consequences. These problems may include stroke, heart failure, blood clots, an irregular heartbeat, and death.
When heart valves become diseased, it may not cause any noticeable symptoms for years. When there are symptoms, there may be fatigue, shortness of breath (especially when active), fainting, an irregular heartbeat, and swelling of your feet and ankles. A doctor may also notice an unusual sound, a heart murmur, when listening to your heart with a stethoscope.
Heart valves can become diseased for several reasons. When they do, it affects how well they open and lose, and this causes the heart to work harder. Diseases of the heart valves can be caused by birth defects, other diseases (rheumatic fever) or infections, and endocarditis (bacteria that attacks the valves). Other causes include a heart attack, STD’s (syphilis), high blood pressure, and diseases of the connective tissues.
There are a number of factors that can affect the development of heart valve disease. These include having had a previous heart attack or heart disease, birth defects in the heart, a history of having had an infection that can affect the heart, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and old age.
Getting an accurate diagnosis of a heart valve disease will likely require several tests. This will be necessary to eliminate other possible problems. The tests may include an x-ray, echocardiography, electrocardiogram (ECG), stress tests, an MRI, and cardiac catheterization.
The treatment can be expected to vary depending on the severity of the condition. In milder cases, only medication and some lifestyle changes may be given. In more serious cases, the doctor will need to perform surgery to repair or to replace the diseased valves. This may be through open heart surgery, or it may be performed through a smaller incision or through a catheter.
Because infections can cause diseased heart valves, it is important to take of your teeth and gums. Antibiotics may be needed. If you get strep throat, see a doctor to control it. In addition, get down to a healthy weight and maintain it, eat healthy, exercise, reduce stress, and control your high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels.
Dr. Abdul Malik, MD is a Cardiologist who has been practicing for more than 24 years. He is very familiar with diseases of the heart valves. He has also trained young doctors at several hospitals in the fields of Cardiology and Internal Medicine. His thorough diagnosis and friendliness to patients have earned him the title the Consumer’s Choice Award for Top Doctors.