What is valvular heart disease ?
A damaged or diseased heart valve may cause problems in several ways
- If the valve is narrowed (stenosed) it will restrict the flow of blood from one of the heart chambers. This can put extra strain on the heart and make it work much harder to pump bood past the narrowing
- If the valve does not close properly it will cause blood to leak backwards. This can also put extra strain on the heart, which has to work harder to pump the extra blood out of the chamber
The location of the diseased heart valve, and the degree is narrowing (stenosis) and leak will determine what, if any, treatment if required
What causes heart valve disease?
The main causes of valvular heart disease are the following:
- Being born with an abnormal valve
- Cardiomyopathy- weak heart muscle
- Having sustained damage to the heart muscle following a heart attack
- Previous infection on the valve (endocarditis)
- Having had rheumatic fever (usually as a child)
What are the symptoms of valvular heart disease ?
Some of the more common symptoms are as follows
- A reduction in exercise capacity and breathlessness.
- Swollen ankles/feet
- An inability to lie flat, and episodes of breathlessness at night
- General malaise/lethargy
How is valve disease diagnosed ?
A simple examination will often reveal an abnormality (usually described as a ‘murmer’) but definitive diagnosis is made with an ultrasound scan (echocardiogram). For more information regarding this information please click here
How is valvular heart disease treated ?
Treatment will vary according to the severity of the valve disease. Many patients are kept under observation (‘surveillance) with routine check-ups. If the valve disease is severe, it may require repair or replacement, either by conventional surgery, or in some circumstances by a keyhole operation. For more information on these procedures please please click here.