Patient's Complete Guide to Valvular Heart Disease

Overview of Valvular Heart Disease

The heart has four chambers. The upper chamber is divided into two atriums known as the right and left atrium. The lower chamber is also divided into two chambers known as the left and right ventricles.

The four valves of the heart are:

  • Tricuspid Valve
  • Pulmonary Valve
  • Mitral Valve
  • Aortic Valve

All four valves make one passage at the exit of the heart and maintain a one-way continuous blood way.
Valvular Heart Disease (Valvular Dil ki Bemari / والولر دل کی بیماری ) occurs when one or more of the valves do not open or close properly. Valves keep the blood flowing in the correct direction. In valvular heart disease, the valves become narrow or hard or don’t close properly.
The tricuspid and mitral valve control blood flow between the atria and ventricles. The pulmonary valve controls blood flow from the heart to the lungs. The aortic valve controls blood flow between the heart and the aorta.

Prevalence of Valvular Heart Disease

Valvular Heart Disease has a prevalence rate of 18.1 million globally. In Pakistan, the prevalence rate is 32.9 percent.

Signs and Symptoms of Valvular Heart Disease

The symptoms can manifest quickly if the disease has reached a later stage. Symptoms include:

  • Angina pain or Chest pain
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Fatigue and Weakness
  • Swelling in abdomen, feet, and ankles
  • Dizziness
  • Palpitations / Irregular heartbeat
  • Abnormal sound listened through a stethoscope

Severity of Valvular Heart Disease

Valvular Heart Disease is classified as mild, moderate, and severe. The severity of the condition varies.

  • Mild cases are most of the times asymptomatic
  • The moderate and severe case leads to enlargement of the heart or heart failure.

Causes of Valvular Heart Disease

This disease can develop at birth or before birth. The cause is not always known. Some known causes are the following:

  • Regurgitation: Blood leaks backwards through a valve due to prolapse (bulging of valve flaps).
  • Stenosis: Valves become thick or hardened and fuse together resulting in narrowing of the valve opening and restricted blood flow.
  • Atresia: The valve is not formed and there is a blockage between the heart chambers.
  • Prolapse: The valve slips out of place or does not close properly.

Risk Factors of Valvular Heart Disease

Risk factors of Valvular heart disease are as follows:

  • High Blood Pressure
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Rheumatic Fever
  • Bacterial Endocarditis
  • Myocardial Infarction
  • Valve tissue degeneration
  • Diabetes
  • Congenital Heart Disease
  • Radiation therapy
  • Tumour in the heart
  • Certain Medications

Health Complications of Valvular Heart Disease

Valvular heart disease can cause serious complications. Some of these are given below:

  • Heart Failure

Also known as congestive heart failure. It is a condition in which the heart muscles fail to pump blood to the various organs of the body.

  • Stroke

When the supply of blood to the brain is suddenly interrupted, stroke can occur.

  • Formation of Blood Clots

The blood becomes thick and this leads to the formation of clots in the blood. These blood clots can interfere with the normal supply of blood.

  • Heart Rhythm Abnormalities

It is a sequence of heart rhythms in which either the heart either beats too fast or too slow. Serious heart conditions can lead to the onset of this complication.

Prevention

Given below are some of the best preventive strategies of valvular heart disease:

  • Quit smoking
  • Make healthier lifestyle choices
  • Try to eat a balanced meal
  • Engage yourself in healthy activities
  • Avoid passive smoke
  • Manage stress
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Control your blood pressure

Diagnosis

For a proper diagnosis, a complete check of symptoms needs to be given to the doctor. A physical examination is done by the doctor to listen for a heart murmur.

Tests for diagnosis include:

  • ECG: ECG or Electrocardiogram detects any abnormalities of the heart.
  • Echocardiogram: This assesses the heart valves and blood flow through the heart including any structural deformity.
  • Chest X-ray: This shows whether the heart is enlarged or normal
  • Cardiac MRI: Magnetic fields create a detailed image of the heart which shows the severity of the condition.
  • Stress Test: Any changes during exercise are monitored such as heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing.

Treatment of Valvular Heart Disease | When to Consult a Doctor

Treatment depends on the severity of the condition. For very minor conditions, treatment might not be necessary. Regular check-ups will be performed to monitor your heart health.

  • Medications

Medications can relieve some of the symptoms of Valvular heart disease but cannot cure it. The doctor may prescribe:

  • Diuretics
  • Blood Thinners
  • Antiarrhythmics
  • Antithrombotic medication
  • Surgery

Invasive and non-invasive procedures are recommended. In some cases, surgery is the only option left. The procedures recommended include: 

  • Heart valve repair
  • Heart valve replacement
  • Catheters
  • Balloon Dilatation

Valvular heart disease can be fatal if left undiagnosed and untreated. It is better to consult a cardiologist if you suffer from any of the symptoms.

Speciality for Valvular Heart Disease

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