The following HeartCareTips.com page will provide you with a comprehensive overview on valvular heart disease. This page will primarily focus on valvular heart disease symptoms, complications of valvular heart disease, treatment for valvular heart disease, diagnosis of valvular heart disease and the various types of valvular heart disease.
Additionally, this HeartCareTips.com page will briefly outline the pathophysiology of valvular heart disease. At HeartCareTips.com, we sincerely hope that this page assists you in becoming more proficient in the understanding of valvular heart disease, as well as the hardships that valvular heart disease causes.
What is Valvular Heart Disease?
Valvular heart disease is a complex and common heart condition. Scientifically, valvular heart disease causes damages or defects to one of the heart’s four valves: the aortic valve, mitral valve, tricuspid valve and pulmonary valve. Each of the four types of valvular heart disease are named after one of the heart’s valves: valvular heart disease found in the aortic valve is classified as aortic valve stenosis, valvular heart disease found in the tricuspid valve is classified as tricuspid valve stenosis, valvular heart disease found in the mitral valve is classified as mitral valve stenosis and valvular heart disease found in the pulmonary valve is classified as pulmonary valve stenosis.
It is important that you are cognizant of what the normal function of a healthy heart valve is. Properly functioning heart valves assure that blood properly flows with the correct amount of force in the correct direction at the proper time. In contrast, valvular heart disease causes the heart valves to become hardened (stenotic valves) and narrow (incompetent valves).
These complications will cause one of two problems: the first being that the heart valves will not be able to fully open, the second being that the heart valves are unable to completely close. Scientifically, a stenosis classifies an abnormal closing or narrowing of a blood vessel.
When a person succumbs to one of the four types of valvular heart disease, they suffer a stenosis, which is part of the natural pathophysiology of valvular heart disease. Regardless of where the stenosis originates, there will always be complications of valvular heart disease (although valvular heart disease symptoms may vary based on the stenotic origin).
Once stenotic, a valve will begin to force blood back up the adjacent heart chamber, while a narrow or incompetent valve will allow blood to leak back into the chamber it previously resided in. In order to compensate for the decreased pumping efficiency within the heart, the heart muscle becomes enlarged and thickened, therefore losing its normal efficiency and elasticity. Moreover, blood pooling within one of the hearts chambers may occur as an additional problem, ultimately increasing the risk of pulmonary embolism or stroke. Both issues are synonymous with the typical pathophysiology of valvular heart disease. Conclusively, each of the types of valvular heart disease succumbs to these issues.
It is important to note that valvular heart disease varies. As a result, the adjacent valvular heart disease symptoms may also vary, leading to different treatment for valvular heart disease. All of this is dependent on the specific diagnosis of valvular heart disease.
In mild cases, valvular heart disease may not cause symptoms. Whereas, in advanced cases, valvular heart disease causes a variety of complications, which include, but are not limited to: congestive heart failure, stroke (ischemic or hemorrhagic) and other problematic cardiovascular complications.
Prior to further discussion on valvular heart disease, it is important that you become familiar with the four valves of the human heart.
What You Need to Know: The Valves of the Heart and What They Do
At this point you should be familiar with the names of the four valves of the human heart: the mitral valve, the tricuspid valve, the aortic valve and the pulmonary valve. Each valve is unique and serves a different purpose.
It is important to know the physiology of the heart valves, as it should help you better understand the complications of heart disease, the treatment for heart disease and the diagnosis of valvular heart disease, as these factors slightly differ based on where the valvular heart disease occurs. The severity of valvular heart disease symptoms is also dependent on the valve affected.
The aortic valve resides between the left ventricle of the heart and the aorta. The aorta is classified as a semilunar valve. There are two semilunar valves within the human heart, the other being the pulmonary valve. Aesthetically, its three cusps and two leaflets classify the aortic valve. The aortic valve is responsible for allowing blood to leave the left ventricle and enter the aorta.
The mitral valve is also identified as the left atrioventricular valve or bicuspid valve. The mitral valve resides in between the left ventricle and left atrium of the heart. The mitral valve is classified as a dual flap valve. The mitral valve has two cusps that guard the opening. The opening of the mitral valve has a fibrous ring, known as the mitral valve annulus, surrounding it entrance.
The main purpose of the mitral valve is to transport blood from the left atrium into the left ventricle. This transportation occurs when pressure within the left ventricle drops, due to the myocardium becoming relaxed, resulting in an opening.
The pulmonary valve or pulmonic valve is the second of the two semilunar valves (with the first being the aortic valve). The pulmonary valve resides in between the pulmonary artery and the right ventricle of the heart. Aesthetically, the pulmonary valve has three cusps. Similarly to the function of the aortic valve, the pulmonary valve will open when pressure in the right ventricle increases to a point in which it is higher than the pressure within pulmonary artery.
The final valve to be discussed, the tricuspid valve resides on the right dorsal side of the heart, fitting in between the right ventricle and right atrium. The tricuspid valve may also be referred to as the right atrioventricular valve. Physiologically, the tricuspid valve typically has three papilliary muscles and three leaflets. Functionally, the tricuspid valve’s purpose is to prevent the backflow of blood. This backflow typically begins within the right ventricle and travels towards the right atrium.
Valvular Heart Disease Symptoms: What to Expect
There are a variety of valvular heart disease symptoms. Unfortunately, these symptoms are the typical complications of valvular heart disease.
Valvular heart disease symptoms may manifest themselves in a variety of ways. They may occur suddenly, or over time, dependent on how quickly the condition becomes present within a specific individual. Moreover, it is crucial that a person quickly undergoes a diagnosis of valvular heart disease, as even severe valvular heart disease may not display visible symptoms within the sufferer. Ultimately, the faster the diagnosis, the faster a patient can receive treatment for valvular heart disease.
Commonly, there are a variety of valvular heart disease symptoms that are not life threatening. These symptoms commonly go unnoticed, as a variety of factors trigger them. They include, but are not limited to: wheezing (and coughing), shortness of breath and swelling of the extremities after extreme physical activity. Minor symptoms also include fatigue, fever associated with bacterial endocarditis, dizziness and unusual and fast weight gain.
In terms of more severe symptoms and complications, valvular heart disease causes abnormal heart palpitations, severe chest pain, and in extreme cases, cardiac arrest and congestive heart failure. Hopefully valvular heart disease is caught early and people succumbing to the condition do not suffer severe consequences.
Valvular Heart Disease: Causes and Preventions
There are a variety of ways in which a person can succumb to a valvular disease. Most commonly, these factors are either genetic or acquired later in life. This section will focus on acquired valvular heart disease, as genetic valvular heart disease is diagnosed at birth.
The following factors are only SOME of the factors responsible for the potential causation of valvular heart disease. The degeneration of heart tissue (as a result of age), rheumatic fever, infections of the heart muscle’s inner lining (bacterial endocarditis), arthritis, lupus and carcinoid tumors (through prolonged heart valve damage), atherosclerosis and hypertension are all common, natural factors that may contribute to the causation of valvular heart disease.
In addition to naturally occurring factors, medical factors, such as cancer related radiation therapy and the prolonged usage of methysergide (a migraine medication) might both lead to the causation of valvular heart disease.
For those not genetically prone to valvular heart disease, there are a variety of lifestyle choices that can be made in order to help prevent valvular heart disease.
Abstaining from smoking, drinking fewer than two beverages per day containing alcohol, eating a healthy and balanced diet (one low in fats and salt) and regular exercise may help lower your chances of succumbing to valvular heart disease.
Additionally, those suffering from diabetes mellitus (DM) are encouraged to properly maintain their condition (especially their blood sugar level) to help avoid valvular heart disease. When debating whether or not to change your lifestyle, think of all the pain and suffering valvular heart disease causes.