Four valves — tricuspid, pulmonary, mitral, and aortic — direct the blood flow from your heart and within its chambers. Your aortic valve directs the flow of blood between your heart and your aorta, or the main artery that supplies oxygenated blood to the rest of the vessels in your body.
The mitral and tricuspid valves keep blood flowing freely and in the right direction between the upper and lower chambers of your heart, and the pulmonary valve helps move deoxygenated blood from your heart to your lungs.
Valvular heart disease refers to any condition that weakens or damages one or more of these vital valves. When a heart valve doesn’t function normally, it disrupts blood flow and triggers a variety of symptoms and potential complications.
Valvular heart disease can be present at birth (congenital), or it can develop later in life for a variety of reasons, including acute damage caused by an infection and chronic damage caused by heart disease. The two main acquired heart valve problems are:
When the aortic valve becomes narrow and hard (stenotic), it can impede the flow of blood from your heart to your aorta. Eventually, a stiff valve can become partially fused, forcing blood to back up and pool in adjacent chambers.
When mitral valves don’t close completely, blood leaks back into your heart. Regurgitation is usually caused by valve prolapse, or dysfunctional valve flaps that bulge backward.
Valvular heart disease usually begins silently, with no noticeable symptoms. Often, finding a heart murmur during a routine physical exam is the first indication of a heart valve problem.
As the disease progresses, it typically causes symptoms that mirror those caused by heart failure, including:
Valvular heart disease can also cause pronounced swelling (edema) in your lower extremities.
Left untreated, valvular heart disease elevates your risk of developing blood clots and heart rhythm abnormalities. Ultimately, it can lead to heart failure or trigger a life-threatening heart attack or stroke.
When diagnosing valve disease, the team at Coastal Cardiology of Orange County must determine the nature and severity of the problem and assess how quickly it seems to be progressing. Your individually tailored treatment plan aims to:
If valve damage is severe or appears to be progressing quickly, they may need to perform a specialized surgical procedure to repair the valve or replace it.
Call the nearest Coastal Cardiology of Orange County office to learn more or book an appointment online today.