Heart Valvular Disease Explained

Heart Valvular Disease Explained

Heart Valvular Disease Explained: A Complete Guide to Valve Abnormalities of the Heart. Valvular Heart Disease affects millions of people around the world. But what exactly is it? It’s an abnormality of one or more of the valves in the heart, which can lead to severe complications and even death. This article gives you a deeper look at what causes valve disease. What treatments are available, and steps to help manage and prevent it.

Valve diseases can be complicated – but don’t worry! We’ll break down all the essential facts you need to know to understand valvular heart disease better. Its causes, risk factors, and treatment. This guide will provide all the information you need to understand valvular heart disease.

What Are Heart Valves and How Do They Work?

Your heart is one of the most essential organs in your body. It’s a complex pump that keeps blood flowing throughout your body. It has four chambers – two atria and two ventricles – and four valves that regulate blood flow from room to section.

The four valves are the mitral, tricuspid, pulmonic, and aortic valves (Figure 1). When they work correctly, these valves allow for the smooth flow of blood throughout your body and to your lungs and prevent it from backing up or leaking out of the heart in the wrong direction.

But when these valves become damaged, diseased, or blocked, they can’t open properly to allow for the normal flow of blood. It is what’s known as valvular heart disease (VHD). VHD can lead to symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath, swelling in the legs or abdomen, fatigue, and palpitations. In some cases, it can be life-threatening if left untreated.

Types of Heart Valve Disease: Stenosis, Regurgitation or Prolapse

Regarding valvular heart disease, the most common conditions that can result are stenosis, regurgitation, or prolapse.

Stenosis is when a heart valve doesn’t open all the way, restricting the blood flow at that point. It can cause by infection of the valve leaflets (called endocarditis) or thickening of the leaflets themselves due to high blood pressure in the heart, also known as valvular sclerosis.

Regurgitation occurs when a valve doesn’t close properly, and some blood flows backward into the wrong chamber. It is known as regurgitation because it’s similar to food returning to your esophagus when you throw up. In this case, it’s blood going back into a chamber of your heart that it wasn’t supposed to go into.

The third type of valvular heart disease is prolapse which happens when one or more valves collapse and bulge back into the atria (upper chambers). It often happens because there is something wrong with either or both of the chordae tendineae(CT), an essential part of each valve leaflet—which keeps them closed when the ventricles contract. When this system fails, prolapse occurs, and blood will abnormally leak through your valves.

Causes and Risk Factors of Valvular Heart Disease

Heart Valvular Disease Explained

Various things cause valvular heart disease, but age, infection, and genetics are the most common. So let’s look at each of those causes in more detail.


As with many other diseases, age is one of the most common causes of valvular heart disease. As we get older, our hearts naturally become weaker and less efficient. Over time this can lead to wear and tear on the valve leaflets, which can cause them to become thickened or narrowed. This type of valvular heart disease is known as ‘degenerative valve disease.’


Another cause of valvular heart disease is infection by bacteria or viruses. Bacteria and viruses can enter the valves through the bloodstream and attach to the valve leaflet. Causing inflammation and eventually leading to scarring or narrowing of the valves. This type of valvular heart disease is known as ‘infective endocarditis.’


Some types of valve disease are genetic, meaning they can be passed down from generation to generation in a family. Genetic heart defects often cause problems with how the valves work, such as narrowing or leaking, leading to valvular heart disease. This type is called ‘congenital valve disease.’

Symptoms and Diagnosis of Heart Valve Disease

If you suspect you might have heart valve disease, your doctor can help you get a diagnosis. Initially, they’ll probably take a detailed medical history and physical exam to check for any murmur—an unusual sound caused by turbulent blood flow in the valve.

Your doctor might also order the tests to get more information:

  • Echocardiography – This uses ultrasound technology to create images of your heart in motion. It can show how well your valves are working and any changes to their size and structure.
  • Cardiac catheterization – involves inserting a thin tube called a catheter into your artery. It helps your doctor assess how much blood flows through each valve and how it affects the rest of your cardiovascular system.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan creates detailed images of your heart’s internal structures and can indicate how severe the leaking is from each valve.

These tests and signs from physical exams can help your healthcare team determine what type of valvular heart disease you have. Your treatment plan will depend on the strength level and type of valve damage or disease present.

Treatment Options for Heart Valve Disease: Medications, Surgery, or Other Procedures

Treating valve disease depends on its cause, how severe it is, and whether you have other medical conditions. Your doctor will likely start with medications to treat the valve condition.


Medication for valve disease can include antibiotics to prevent infection or anticoagulants to reduce the risk of stroke. Other drugs may help manage symptoms such as leg swelling or difficulty breathing. Depending on the cause of your valve illness, your doctor may prescribe combinations of medicines and various doses at different times.


If medications don’t solve your problem, you’ll need surgery, repair, or replacement of the affected heart valve. For example, if you have a narrowing (stenosis) in any valve, balloon valvuloplasty is performed by a cardiologist and is often used if there isn’t valve damage. If necessary, surgeons will repair or replace valves using many techniques involving mechanical and animal tissue valves (known as biological valves).

Other Procedures

Depending on your needs, several other procedures are available: transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), endovascular approaches for aortic coarctation, and implantable ventricular assist devices (VADs). These are all minimally invasive treatments that use catheters to access the heart from outside the body instead of open-heart surgery, where cardiologists make an incision in the chest wall and then cut through the sternum (breastbone).

Everyone with valvular heart disease must monitor their symptoms and visit their doctor regularly for follow-up care. Talk to your physician about which treatm

ent option is best for you and decide together if medications, surgery, or one of these other procedures would work best to alleviate your symptoms.

Living With Heart Valve Disease: Lifestyle Changes and Monitoring

Living with heart valve disease requires lifestyle changes and monitoring of the condition. For example, if you have aortic stenosis. Your doctor may suggest changing your diet to reduce salt intake and increase exercise to prevent heart failure.

Heart-Healthy Habits

Maintaining a healthy diet and exercising are essential for managing all types of heart valve disease.

  1. Limit salt and fried foods. Overeating salt can cause swelling in the body (edema), which can be worse for valvular heart disease patients because it puts additional strain on the heart and valves.
  2. Exercise regularly – this helps keep your cardiovascular system strong and allows it to work more efficiently. Your doctor may recommend an exercise program tailored to your individual needs.
  3. Watch your fluid intake – too much fluid can cause edema, so if you know you’re at risk for valve problems. Talk to your doctor about how much juice you should drink daily.
  4. Stay away from alcohol – this can negatively affect the heart and its valves, so cutting back or abstaining altogether is best if you have valvular heart problems. A history of them in the family.

Monitoring Your Condition

It’s essential to monitor your condition regularly as well – see your doctor often and follow their advice regarding medications, managing symptoms, lifestyle changes. Any other recommendations they may have for you to manage your valvular heart disease successfully over time without putting too much strain on the organ or its valves.


In conclusion, heart valvular disease can be a serious issue that impacts the quality of life of those affected. However, by understanding what causes valve abnormalities and being aware of the signs and symptoms of heart valve disease, you can take steps to help manage and prevent it.

Regular checkups with your physician to monitor your heart and overall well-being and make lifestyle changes. Such as maintaining a healthy weight eating a balanced diet, and exercising can help significantly reduce the risk of heart valve disease and improve overall heart health.

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Written by Vitals Blog

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