The heart is made up of 4 chambers: the left ventricle, the right ventricle, the left atrium and the right atrium. With each chamber, there are valves associated with it. The mitral valve and the tricuspid valve support blood flow from the atria into the ventricles. The aortic valve and the pulmonary valve support blow flow out of the ventricles. Blood is brought into the right atrium via the superior and inferior vena cava. This blood is deoxygenated and thus, the right side of the heart is associated with oxygen-poor blood. The blood in the right atrium is pumped to the right ventricle via the tricuspid valve. Thus, valvular heart disease symptoms associated the tricuspid valves due to its inefficiency can be present. Blood in the right ventricle is pumped out of the heart and to the lungs via the pulmonary valve. Thus, valvular heart disease symptoms can also be associated with the pulmonary valve. The blood is then oxygenated in the lungs and returned to the heart and the left atrium via the pulmonary vein. The blood here is pumped to the left ventricle and thus, through the mitral valve. When the left ventricle has filled, blood is pumped out through the aorta and the aortic valve to the body so tissues and muscles can be supplied with oxygen.
It is especially important the tricuspid and mitral valves are functioning correctly as complications of valvular heart disease are associated with them. Both of these valves has been linked to valvular heart disease causes. If they do not prevent blood from flowing back into the atrium when it is supposed to go into the ventricles, the overall efficiency of the heart decreases. Thus, symptoms of valvular heart disease can include chest pain, shortness of breath and trouble exercising. It is important to seek medical advice about valvular heart disease symptoms are they are similar to nonvalvular heart disease.
Valvular Heart Disease Causes
The proper functioning of the heart valves are vital to the heart functioning as close to 100 percent efficiency as possible. There are many valvular heart disease causes and they all are associated with the valves ability to be flexible and close properly. Some causes are old age, infections, rheumatic fever, high blood pressure/atherosclerosis, autoimmune disorders and certain syndromes such as Marfan and Carcinoid syndrome.
Tissue tends to degenerate with age and heart valve tissue is no exception. As the heart valve degenerates and becomes weaker, complications of valvular heart disease associated with poor closing and flexibility of the valves become more apparent.
Bacterial endocarditis is an infection of the heart muscle known as the endocardium. Bacteria enter through other external orifices in the body and travels to the heart where it can disrupt heart functioning and heart valve efficiency. Antibiotics and other medications that slow the progression of bacterial multiplication treat infections of this nature immediately. Thus, the infections of the heart are serious valvular heart disease causes.
Rheumatic Fever is associated rheumatic valvular heart disease. Untreated strep throat can cause damage to the heart and heart valves that is only noticed in the later stages of life. Thus, rheumatic valvular heart disease should always be monitored in patients that present symptoms of a rheumatic fever.
High blood pressure and atherosclerosis are two common valvular heart disease causes. Here, the pathophysiology of valvular heart disease is associated with the narrowing of arteries in the heart and the heart having to overcompensate for this by raising blood pressure. Extended exposure to both hypertension and atherosclerosis have been linked to chronic valvular heart disease.
These are less common valvular heart disease causes but are very serious. For example, lupus, an autoimmune disease that attacks the bodies own cells, has the ability to destroy the associated tissue of heart valves. This can be extremely damaging to the efficiency of the heart and thus, survival. Certain syndromes such as Marfan and Carcinoid have been shown to be valvular heart disease causes. Marfan syndrome has genetic roots and its pathophysiology of valvular heart disease is linked to poor production of connective tissue in the heart. Carcinoid syndrome is also very serious as a tumour develops that secretes harmful chemicals throughout the blood stream. These chemicals can make their way to the heart and can be a serious cause of valvular heart disease.
If you are experiencing or have experienced any of the above valvular heart disease causes, you should consult with a medical professional as soon as possible.
Valvular Heart Disease Symptoms
Valvular heart disease symptoms can drastically alter one’s life. The first and most immediate valvular heart disease symptom is a irregular heartbeat or a heart murmur. Other valvular heart disease symptoms include shortness of breath, chest pain, fatigue, and abnormal swelling in areas of the body such as the ankles and feet.
A common valvular heart disease symptom is heart palpitations. The pathophysiology of valvular heart disease is due to the heart valves becoming inefficient at their jobs and forcing the heart to work harder and faster to supply the body with oxygen. Thus, heart valve disorders tend to speed up the heart rate and promote excessive sweating.
Chest Pain is a common complication of chronic valvular heart disease and non-valvular heart disease. Chest pain is associated with the heart not being able to receive the amount of blood and oxygen it needs to work properly. Thus, chest pains result and can be very painful.
Fatigue is a common valvular heart disease symptom. It is associated with the heart being unable to supply the blood with an adequate supply of oxygen that it needs. The heart valves may become inefficient due to the previous valvular heart disease causes and thus, blood may back up in the heart and not make it out to the tissues where it is needed. This is also associated with a shortness of breath and difficulty breathing while performing daily activities.
Swelling is not only a valvular heart disease symptom, but also a non-valvular heart disease symptom as well. It is one of the more apparent complications of valvular heart disease and is a telling sign that you should visit a medical professional immediately to examine the swelling. Heart valve complications promote the inadequate return of blood flow to the heart and thus, blood begins to pool in areas of the body that are obvious to the naked eye. If swelling occurs for a extend period of time, it may be linked to chronic valvular heart disease.
Diagnosis of Valvular Heart Disease
An accurate diagnosis of valvular heart disease is vital in minimizing its symptoms and avoiding chronic valvular heart disease. There are numerous methods to the diagnosis of valvular heart disease. These include a physical examination, cardiac catheterization, chest x-rays, electrocardiogram, echocardiogram and cardiac MRI’s.
A physical examination is usually the first test a doctor performs on patients. It involves the use of a stethoscope to examine the presence of an irregular heartbeat and murmur. If an irregular heartbeat is present, medical professionals usually elect to perform more testing to search for the reasoning behind it. Also, a physical examination is important for catching the early signs of rheumatic valvular heart disease.
Cardiac catheterization is a relatively invasive process as a thin tube (catheter) is placed in the lumen of an artery or vein of the leg. The catheter is passed up through the body until it reaches the heart. X-rays are then commonly used to examine problems with heart valves. A dye is sometimes inserted into the catheter as well to look for proper blood flow throughout the heart.
Chest X-Rays are common and used by doctors extensively. They are non-invasive and usually the next step after a physical examination. A chest x-ray helps illuminate the warning signs of chronic valvular heart disease such as an enlarged heart and whether the shape of the heart is normal.
Electrocardiograms, are the name suggests, help monitor the electrical activity in the heart and check for irregularities. They are usually prescribed to patients suffering from irregular heartbeats. Electrocardiograms have numerous forms of use such as examining heart murmurs, looking for damage heart muscles, ruling out heart disease, and helping to ensure the recovery of patients that have suffered from strokes or heart attacks.
Echocardiograms have become an essential tool for the diagnosis of valvular heart disease. A transducer is placed on the patient’s chest and elicits the development of sound waves through the heart. The sound waves produce echoes, which are abled to be converted into accurate pictures of the heart on screen. Echocardiograms are especially useful for monitoring the efficiency of heart valves and to ensure that proper blood flow is occurring throughout the heart.
A Cardiac MRI is relatively uncommon but can produce accurate images of the muscles of the heart. This is used to examine for problems with various heart muscles and ensure valve proper functioning.
Your doctor is the best person to determine which is the best form for diagnosis of valvular heart disease.
Treatment of Valvular Heart Disease
Treatment of valvular heart disease is imperative for improving the symptoms of valvular heart disease. Since the complications associated with inadequate blood flow through the heart are often life threatening, it is imperative one seek proper medical attention to determine what is the best method for treatment of valvular heart disease. Some forms of treatment include lifestyle changes, medications, diuretics, valve repairs and valve replacements.
Depending on the severity, treatment of valvular heart disease may just require lifestyle changes. This includes exercising more frequently and proper management of your diet. It is said that exercising 30 minutes a day is adequate to drastically reduce the formation of various heart diseases. Also, limiting foods high in saturated and trans fat are vital in stopping the development of atherosclerosis and hypertension.
If lifestyle changes are not enough to help combat heart disease alone, medications may be used for the treatment of valvular heart disease. These medications include antibiotics to limit the spread of bacterial infections, angiotensin II converting enzyme inhibitors, and beta-blockers. These medications have been shown to help dilate blood vessels and lower blood pressure.
There are numerous forms of valve repair. These include valvulotomy, annuloplasty, valvuloplasty, and ballonvalvotomy. These forms of valve repair all differ from one another. Valvulotomy involves the straight repair of the flaps of the damage valve to improve its closing. Annuloplasty involves repairing the mechanism that holds the valve in proper alignment. Valvuloplasty involves repairing impaired flaps by surgically placing them together again. Balloon valvotomy involves the placement of a balloon shape catheter into the valve to promote the opening and functioning of the valve.
This is often the last resort for surgeons and doctors in the treatment of valvular heart disease. If chronic valvular disease has been persistent throughout ones lifetime, it may be necessary. The valves here are too damaged to repair and need a full replacement. This is a form of open-heart surgery and is extremely invasive, thus used only when necessary. Two forms of valves can be inserted in the heart, mechanical and bio-prosthetic valves. Mechanical valves are an older form of treatment and have shown signs of complications leading to stroke. Mechanical valve surgery thus requires follow up with doctors and surgeons extensively after surgery to ensure that the mechanical valve has been working correctly and efficiently.
Bio-prosthetic valves are the newer form of valve replacement surgery. The valves here are not human made and thus have been donated by humans or another species. Pigs are shown to be excellent donors of heart valves for humans as the structure of the heart in both humans and pigs is very similar. Bio-prosthetic valves are also not without complications and further monitoring of patient health is needed as well post surgery.
Your doctor is the best person to ask about what treatment should be used to help deter the symptoms of heart disease.