What is valvular disease?
Valve disease exists when one or more of the valves in your heart is not working correctly.
There are four valves in the heart – the mitral, tricuspid, aortic and pulmonary valves. Their job is to ensure that blood flows through the heart in one direction only. If one or more of these valves is not working correctly, the heart is forced to work harder in order to pump the blood throughout the body.
What are the symptoms of valvular disease?
The symptoms of heart valve disease can include:
- Shortness of breath: more evident when you are exercising or more active, or when lying down flat
- Palpitations: feeling an extra beat, a rapid, racing or skipped heartbeat
- Swelling of the ankles, feet or abdomen: referred to as oedema
- Weakness or dizziness: when carrying out routine daily activities
- Tiredness: you may feel very tired and struggle to carry out your daily activities
- Weight gain: this may be very rapid due to swelling of your feet or ankles
- Chest discomfort
What causes it?
- Congenital: where a child is born with the disease
- Rheumatic fever
- Infection (endocarditis)
- Coronary artery disease
- Heart attacks
- Cardiomyopathy: disease of the heart muscle
- High blood pressure
- Post radiation therapy
- Certain drugs
- Simply unknown causes
How can valvular disease be treated?
Treatment will depend on the individual, the amount of disease and the severity of the symptoms. Following a series of tests and depending on your age and the degree of disease, a decision will be made between you and your consultant as to your treatment plan. Treatment for heart valve disease could involve:
- Protecting the valve from further damage
- Taking certain medications
- Adjusting your lifestyle
- Surgery to repair or replace the damaged valve