Cardiac Valve Disease

Your Care Explained > Conditions and Diagnoses : Cardiac Valve Disease

When heart valves—which let blood flow into the ventricles and out to the body—malfunction, the heart’s pumping ability is impaired, which can lead to heart failure.

Nearly three times as many women as men have mitral valve prolapse, but women are only about one-third as likely as men to have aortic valve stenosis.

Types of Valve Disease

Heart valves malfunction in two ways—regurgitation and stenosis. In regurgitation, the valve’s flaps do not shut completely after they open, allowing some of the blood to flow back into the heart chamber. In stenosis, the valve opening becomes narrowed or stiff, inhibiting the flow of blood out of the ventricles or atria, forcing the heart to pump blood harder to move blood through the affected valve. The mitral valve—between the left atrium and left ventricle—and the aortic valve—between the left ventricle and the aorta—are most commonly affected by valve disease. One or both of them can have loose flaps, narrowed openings or both.

Causes of Valve Disease

Although some valve abnormalities are present at birth, most valve damage is a result of the following:

Symptoms of Valve Disease

Mild heart valve disease may not cause any symptoms. When it does, symptoms may vary depending on the type of heart valve disease present and may include: chest pain, palpitations, headaches, fatigue, dizziness and shortness of breath.

Diagnosing Valve Disease

Heart valve disease may be suspected if the heart sounds heard through a stethoscope are abnormal. A characteristic heart murmur, due to turbulent blood flow across the valve, or a click can often indicate valve regurgitation or stenosis. To pinpoint the type and extent of valve damage, physicians may use the following:

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Treating Valve Disease

In some cases, the only treatment for heart valve disease may be careful medical supervision. However, other treatment options may include medication and surgery to repair or replace the valve. Specific treatment will be determined by your physician based on your symptoms as well as the valve involved, extent of the disease, and your age and state of health. It may include one, or a combination of, the following:

Nutrition and Prevention

Reference these links for information on how to prevent heart disease and how to live a healthy lifestyle.

Date Last Modified: January 21, 2011

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