Heart Valve Disease
The term ‘heart valve disease’ is a general term that describes a condition where one or more of your heart valves are not working properly. A properly functioning heart has four valves with tissues flaps that open and close each time the heart beats. The flaps help regulate blood flow, keeping it moving in the right direction and pumping through the heart to other parts of the body.
There are many reasons that heart valves may not work properly, including defects from birth (congenital) or changes due to age and infection. When the valves don’t work, they either do not allow blood to flow adequately through the heart or allow blood to leak back into the chambers of the heart instead of flowing through.
Heart valve disease is often diagnosed during routine doctor visits when a murmur is noted or after someone experiences an irregular heartbeat, fainting, shortness of breath, fatigue, or swelling in the lower legs.
Treatment of Cardiac Valve Disease
Some people do not have any symptoms of heart valve disease and may not even know they have it. In milder cases, the condition remains the same and doesn’t change throughout your life; you may not even require treatment.
If heart valve disease worsens over time, you may need treatment to prevent heart failure or sudden cardiac death. There is no cure for this condition, but there are some ways that doctors can work to relieve symptoms, repair existing damage, prevent further damage, and reduce the chance of complication.
In some cases, a doctor will work with you on lifestyle changes treatment, including prescription medication, to widen blood vessels and reduce fluids in the body, lowering the chance of heart failure.
Severe cases of heart valve problems may require a heart valve replacement, even in situations where you are not feeling symptoms. It often depends on the severity of the valve disease, your health and age, and other conditions that you may have.
Heart Valve Disease Causes
Heart conditions and other disorders, age-related changes, rheumatic fever, or infections can cause acquired heart valve disease. These factors change the shape or flexibility of once-normal heart valves. Certain conditions can stretch and distort the heart valves. These conditions include:
Advanced high blood pressure and heart failure, this can enlarge the heart or the main arteries.
Atherosclerosis in the aorta. Atherosclerosis is a condition in which a waxy substance called plaque builds up inside the arteries. The aorta is the main artery that carries oxygen-rich blood to the body.
Damage and scar tissue due to a heart attack or injury to the heart.
Many other conditions and factors are linked to heart valve disease. If you think you ay be at risk for heart disease, make an appointment to talk with your doctor.
Heart Valve Disease Symptoms
The main sign of heart valve disease is an unusual heartbeat sound called a heart murmur. Your doctor can hear a heart murmur with a stethoscope. However, many people have heart murmurs without having heart valve disease or any other heart problems. Others may have heart murmurs due to heart valve disease but have no other signs or symptoms. Heart valve disease often worsens over time, so signs and symptoms may occur years after a heart murmur is first heard.
Many people who have heart valve disease don’t have any symptoms until they’re middle-aged or older. Other common signs and symptoms of heart valve disease relate to heart failure, which heart valve disease can cause. These signs and symptoms include:
- Unusual fatigue (tiredness)
- Shortness of breath, especially when you exert yourself or when you’re lying down
- Swelling in your ankles, feet, legs, abdomen, and veins in the neck
Heart Valve Disease Treatment
Currently, no medicines can cure heart valve disease. However, lifestyle changes and medicines often can treat symptoms successfully and delay problems for many years. Eventually, though, you may need surgery to repair or replace a faulty heart valve. In addition to heart-healthy lifestyle changes, your doctor may prescribe medicines to:
- Lower high blood pressure or high blood cholesterol.
- Prevent arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats).
- Thin the blood and prevent clots (if you have a man-made replacement valve). Doctors also prescribe these medicines for mitral stenosis or other valve defects that raise the risk of blood clots.
- Treat coronary heart disease. Medicines for coronary heart disease can reduce your heart’s workload and relieve symptoms.
- Treat heart failure. Heart failure medicines widen blood vessels and rid the body of excess fluid.
Heart Valve Ring Surgery
Whether through disease or age, the tissue supporting the heart valve’s opening may eventually weaken and begin to lose its shape. Heart valve ring surgery can repair this condition. In this procedure, the surgeon sews a device known as an annuloplasty ring or band around the base of the heart valve. This reshapes and supports it. The ring is made of durable plastic, metal, or fabric. It can be either flexible or rigid, depending on your doctor’s preference and your diagnosis.
Following the procedure, most patients feel physically better, because the symptoms of their valve disease dissipate. At Brookhaven Heart, we take special care to improve our patients’ health in any way possible. This care is critical when it comes to our patients’ hearts. You deserve the most efficient and professional heart surgeon. The team at Brookhaven Heart will safely repair your body and support you through your recovery.
Heart Valve Replacement Surgery
Heart valve replacement surgery is most often an open-heart procedure. This means that your trained surgeon will open the chest cavity and heart to completely remove the damaged valve. He or she will then sew a new, artificial valve (known as a prosthetic) into place. In some cases, your surgeon can conduct minimally-invasive surgery – in other words; they will not open the chest. In these cases, surgeons replace the damaged valve through a small incision just under the right chest muscle. Whichever option your surgeon selects, you should notice the effects shortly after the procedure has concluded.
Many patients worry about experiencing pain during the operation. We assure you, however, that all patients remain asleep during the surgery. You will feel no pain whatsoever. Our surgeons are the best in the business. As such, we pride ourselves on offering quality heart care that will make a difference in your life.
Heart Valve Disease Statistics
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., killing more than 600,000 Americans each year. More than five million Americans are diagnosed with heart valve disease each year. Not only that, additional heart valve disease statistics include:
- Calcific aortic stenosis is the most common cause of aortic stenosis (AS).3
- While up to 1.5 million people in the U.S. suffer from AS, approximately 500,000 within this group of patients suffer from severe AS. An estimated 250,000 patients with severe AS are symptomatic.4-6
- An echocardiogram (echo) is the primary imaging test used to diagnose severe AS.
Get Screened for Heart Valve Problems
If you think you might have a heart valve problem, contact Brookhaven Heart today for a screening and to discuss your symptoms with a board certified cardiologist.