A Definitive Guide to Valvular Heart Disease – Risks, Symptoms, and Treatment Options
03 Feb 2023
Valvular Heart Disease, also known as heart valve disease or valvular disease, is a condition in which one or more of the heart's valves do not function properly. These valves are responsible for controlling the flow of blood in and out of the heart, and when they are damaged or malfunctioning, it can lead to serious health problems.
What is Valvular Heart Disease?
The heart is a complex organ that is responsible for pumping blood throughout the body. It consists of four chambers and valves. These valves, including the mitral valve, aortic valve, tricuspid valve, and pulmonic valve, ensure that blood flows in the correct direction and at the right rate. When these valves become damaged or diseased, it can lead to valvular heart disease.
Heart valve disease is a common condition in India, and it is known as Rheumatic involvement of heart disease in young people. It is caused by a variety of factors, including infection, aging, and certain medical conditions.
Causes of Valvular Heart Disease
Valvular heart disease can occur due to a variety of causes, including:
Shrinking or leaking of valves: The valves in the heart can become narrowed or weakened over time, leading to a condition calledvalvular stenosis or regurgitation. Stenosis is a condition in which the valve becomes narrowed and does not open fully, which can lead to restricted blood flow. Regurgitation is a condition in which the valve does not close properly, leading to the leakage of blood backward through the valve.
Infections: Certain types of infections, such as rheumatic fever, can damage the heart valves and lead to valvular disease. It is most common in children and young adults and is caused by a bacterial infection, usually streptococcus.
Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as Marfan syndrome and Lupus, can increase the risk of valvular heart disease. Marfan syndrome is a genetic disorder that affects the connective tissue in the body, including the heart valves. Lupus is an autoimmune disorder that can affect various organs in the body, including the heart valves.
Symptoms of Valvular Heart Disease
Heart valve disease can cause a wide range of heart valve problems, including:
Shortness of breath: This can occur when the valves are not able to pump blood effectively, leading to a build-up of fluid in the lungs called Pulmonary edema.
Fatigue: When the heart is not working properly, it can lead to a lack of energy and fatigue.
Chest pain: This can occur when the valves are narrowed or hardened, making it difficult for blood to flow through. This is called angina.
Palpitations: These are feelings of the heart racing or skipping a beat.
Swelling in the legs, ankles, or abdomen: This can occur when the valves are not able to pump blood effectively, leading to a build-up of fluid in the body called peripheral edema.
Diagnosis of Valvular Heart Disease
To confirm the diagnosis and determine the specific type of valvular heart disease, a healthcare provider may use a variety of diagnostic tests, including:
Echocardiography: This is a non-invasive test that uses sound waves to create a detailed image of the heart and its valves. It can help to determine the severity of valve damage and the degree of blood flow restriction.
Cardiac catheterization: This is a procedure in which a thin tube is inserted into a vein or artery in the groin and guided to the heart. It can help to provide detailed information about the heart valves and the blood flow through the heart.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): This test uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed images of the heart and its valves. It can provide detailed information about the structure and function of the heart valves.
Cardiac Computerized Tomography (CT): This test uses X-rays to create detailed images of the heart and its valves. It can provide detailed information about the structure and function of the heart valves.
Doppler Ultrasound: This test uses sound waves to create a detailed image of the heart valves and the blood flow through them.
Treatment of Valvular Heart Disease
Valvular disease is a serious condition that requires prompt diagnosis and treatment. The first line of treatment is typically medication, which can help to control the symptoms and prevent further damage to the valves. However, in more severe cases, surgery may be necessary to repair or replace the damaged valves.
Medications: Medications such as blood thinners, diuretics, and ACE inhibitors can be used
to control the symptoms of valvular heart disease and prevent further damage to the valves. Blood thinners, also known as anticoagulants, help to prevent blood clots from forming on the heart valves. Diuretics are medications that help to remove excess fluid from the body, which can reduce the symptoms of shortness of breath and swelling. ACE inhibitors are medications that help to lower blood pressure and reduce the workload on the heart.
Surgery: Surgery is typically used to repair or replace damaged valves. This can include open-heart surgery, in which the surgeon makes an incision in the chest to access the heart, or minimally invasive surgery, in which the surgeon makes a small incision and uses special tools to repair or replace the valves. The most common surgical procedures for valvular heart disease are valve repair and valve replacement. Valve repair is a procedure in which the surgeon repairs the damaged valve, rather than replacing it. Valve replacement is a procedure in which the surgeon removes the damaged valve and replaces it with a new one.
Prevention of Valvular Heart Disease
Valvular heart disease can be prevented by:
Managing underlying conditions: If you have a medical condition that increases your risk of valvular heart disease, it is important to manage it effectively to reduce your risk. This includes controlling blood pressure, managing diabetes, and treating infections.
Taking care of your heart health: Eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and not smoking can help to keep your heart healthy and reduce your risk of valvular disease.
Getting regular check-ups: Regular check-ups with a healthcare provider can help to detect the disease early when it is most treatable.