Valvular Heart Disease
The following describes the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of valvular heart disease. For specific information regarding your health and treatment options, please contact your Hurley physician or medical professional.
What is valvular heart disease?
The valves in the heart regulate blood flow, making sure that the blood moves through the heart’s chambers in the right direction and at the proper rate. Minor heart valve abnormalities are somewhat common and typically do not cause problems. However, certain types of valve problems can get progressively worse, causing the heart to have to work harder to move blood through the body, and may result in heart failure or premature death. In some cases, the valves may become narrowed so that not enough blood flows from one chamber to the next. In other cases, the valves may be structurally unable to keep blood from flowing backward through the heart, instead of moving forward through the heart normally.
What causes valvular heart disease?
Valvular heart disease may be the result of congenital (present at birth) or hereditery defects or structural problems. The heart valves may also become damaged as a result of infection or aging.
What are the symptoms of valvular heart disease?
While some patients may experience no symptoms, the primary sign of valvular heart disease is fatigue. You may also experience shortness of breath, dizziness, fainting spells, rapid heartbeat or discomfort in the chest, and swelling in the feet, ankles or lower legs.
How is valvular heart disease diagnosed?
Your Hurley physician will conduct a complete examination to assess your overall health and physical condition. Special attention will be paid to the sounds of the blood moving through the heart and to whether or not you have fluid in your lungs. Additional tests may be conducted, including echodardiograms (EKG or ECG) and cardiac catheterization (also known as an angiogram).
How is valvular heart disease treated?
Treatment depends on the extent of the valvular heart disease. Your Hurley physician will focus on preventing further damage to the valves, addressing symptoms and, if necessary, replacing or repairing the faulty valves. For minor cases, no treatment may be necessary; however, you will want to pay close attention to avoiding infections and to treating infections quickly. If you are going to undergo a dental or medical procedure, you should consult with your doctor or dentist about the possibility of taking antibiotics to prevent an infection.
For more serious cases, medications may be prescribed to help improve the flow of blood, regulate blood pressure, and to reduce the symptoms associated with valvular heart disease, such as the buildup of fluid in the lungs, feet, ankles or lower legs. Cardiac surgery may be required to replace or repair the damaged valve or valves. Your Hurley cardiologist will discuss potential treatment options with you and your family.