Heart valve disease occurs if one or more of the heart valves don't work well. The valves have flaps that may not open or close properly with each heartbeat. If they don’t open properly, it is called stenosis; if they don’t close properly, it is called regurgitation. In any case, the heart then works harder in pumping blood to the body.
The heart has four valves: the tricuspid (between the right atrium and right ventricle), pulmonary (between the right ventricle and pulmonary arteries), mitral (between the left atrium and the left ventricle), and aortic valves (between the left ventricle and the aorta). Each of these four may be diseased. Accordingly there are tricuspid, pulmonary, mitral or aortic diseases, depending on which valve has problems.
The main symptom heart valve disease is heart murmur. However, having a heart murmur does not imply that you will also have a heart valve disease. As this disease gets worse over time, many people may feel the symptoms when they are middle-aged.
Other symptoms of heart valve disease are the following:
- Short of breath, especially when you lye down or strain yourself
- Swelling (ankles, feet, legs, abdomen, veins in the neck)
- Chest pain during exercise
- Irregular heartbeat
These symptoms are similar to the symptoms of heart failure, of which the heart valve disease can be the cause.
The causes of a heart valve disease could be:
- Congenital heart defect
- Heart murmur
- Rheumatic fever
- Cardiomyopathy – disease of the heart muscle
- Damaged heart muscle from a heart attack
- Infection with endocarditis