Heart valve diseases are abnormalities of the heart valves that cause difficulty in the blood flow through the heart.
The heart has four valves that keep the blood flowing in one direction only. They open to let blood in the heart and then tightly close, when the heart muscle contracts. When the heart valve is damaged (when the valve can’t properly open or close), the blood flow has difficulties and it may change its normal direction because the valve is not completely closed. This makes the heart work harder in order to pump and supply blood to the farthest parts of the body.
There can be various forms of valve diseases:
- Leaflets of the valves may not open completely, so the opening is too narrow (mitral or aortic stenosis)
- The valve does not close tightly, so it leaks blood, which goes back, in the opposite direction (mitral or aortic regurgitation)
- Sometimes, the same valve can be both narrowed and incompetent
- Mitral valve withdraws back when closed, allowing slow leakage of the blood (mitral valve prolapse)
Heart valve diseases usually don’t give special symptoms but fatigue is present, shortness of breath, even with mild physical strain.
The causes of heart valve diseases can be:
- Heart attack
- Mitral valve prolapse
- Rheumatic fever, used to be the main cause of heart valve damage, but today it is rare
The risk factors for heart valve diseases are:
- Underlying medical condition
The complications of heart valve diseases can be:
- chronic heart failure
- infectious endocarditis
Preventive measures for heart valve disease have to be in line with leading a healthy lifestyle. In case you already have a damaged or artificial valve, then the prevention will be focused on avoiding infections, especially infectious endocarditis (oral hygiene, avoid places where you can easily get infections)