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All you need to know about Heart Valve Diseases

The four valves of the heart are Aortic Valve, Mitral Valve, Pulmonary Valve and Tricuspid Valve. Heart value diseases are not uncommon, and seen equally in children, adults and the elderly. The heart valves lie at the exit of each of the four heart chambers. The values help in one-way blood flow through your heart. The heart ensures that the blood flows in forward direction only.

During the heartbeat, the ventricles and auricles expand as well as contract. When the ventricles are full, the mitral and tricuspid valves are kept shut. When the ventricles start contracting, the blood flows to the pulmonary artery and lungs through pulmonic and aortic valves. Different valve diseases are Valvular Stenosis, Valvular Insufficiency, Congenital Valve Disease, Bicuspid Aortic Valve Disease, Acquired Valve Disease, and Mitral Valve Prolapse (MVP).

Heart Valve Diseases

CAUSES

Each valve disease has a different set of causes. Congenital Valve Disease is due to wrong size of the aortic or pulmonic valves. Bicuspid aortic valve disease is due to inability of aortic value to open and close properly. Acquired valve disease is caused due to variety of diseases or infections due to rheumatic fever or endocarditis. Mitral valve prolapse is characterized by leaking valves and affects the functioning of the leaflets of mitral valve.

SYMPTOMS

Valve diseases are characterized by shortness of breath, difficulty in breathing, weakness or dizziness, heart murmur, discomfort in the chest, palpitations, swelling of ankles and feet, and weight gain (two to three pounds in one day).

RISK FACTORS & COMPLICATIONS

Some of the major risk factors for heart valve disease are, age of the person, unhealthy blood cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, smoking, insulin resistance, intravenous drug use, diabetes, overweight or obesity, lack of physical activity, and a family history of early heart disease.

TESTS AND DIAGNOSIS

Echocardiography is the main test for diagnosing heart valve disease. Usually, the EKG (electrocardiogram) or chest x ray is used to study possible signs of the heart valve condition. If the doctor suspects the occurrence of heart valve disease, echocardiography is done to confirm the same.

Other tests advised by the doctor include cardiac catheterization, transesophageal echocardiogram or TEE, stress testing, or cardiac MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). These additional tests and procedures help the doctor to better assess the severity of the condition and plan for the right course of treatment.

TREATMENTS

Heart valve disease is a lifelong condition. There is no complete cure for it. However, lifestyle changes and medicines can be of help in the treatment of symptoms and delay the complications of the heart valve disease. The doctor may advise for having heart valve repair or replacement which depends on a number of factors like, severity of the heart valve disease, and the age and general health of the patient.