Heart valve disease

The Structure of the heart valves and how the heart valves work

The heart has four valves: the tricuspid, pulmonary, mitral, and aortic valves.

These valves have tissue flaps that open and close with each heartbeat. The flaps make sure blood flows in the right direction through the heart's four chambers and to the rest of the body.

If one or more of heart valves becomes damaged or diseased, it can affect the flow of blood through the heart.

At the start of each heartbeat, blood returning from the body and lungs fills the heart's two upper chambers. The mitral and tricuspid valves are located at the bottom of these chambers. As the blood builds up in the upper chambers, these valves open to allow blood to flow into the heart's two lower chambers.

After a brief delay, as the lower chambers begin to contract, the mitral and tricuspid valves shut tightly. This prevents blood from flowing back into the upper chambers.

As the lower chambers contract, they pump blood through the pulmonary and aortic valves. The pulmonary valve opens to allow blood to flow from the right lower chamber into the pulmonary artery. This artery carries blood to the lungs to get oxygen.

At the same time, the aortic valve opens to allow blood to flow from the left lower chamber into the aorta. The aorta carries oxygen-rich blood to the body. As the lower chambers relax, the pulmonary and aortic valves shut tightly. This prevents blood from flowing back into the lower chambers.

Heart Valve Problems

Heart valve disease can be congenital where people born with it, or acquired which happen later in life. Both congenital and acquired heart valve disease can cause stenosis or backflow.

A diseased or damaged valve can affect the flow of blood in two ways:

Valve Stenosis occurs if the flaps of a valve thicken, stiffen, or fuse together. If the valve does not open fully, it will obstruct or restrict the flow of blood. This can put extra strain on the heart, making it pump harder to force the blood past the narrowing. Some valves can have both stenosis and backflow problems.

Valve Regurgitation, or backflow, occurs if a valve doesn't close tightly. If the valve does not close properly, it will allow blood to leak backwards. This can put extra strain on the heart and may mean that the heart has to do extra work to pump the required volume of blood.

The main causes of heart valve disease are:

  • Congenital heart disease, being born with an abnormal valves
  • History of  rheumatic fever
  • Cardiomyopathy a disease of the heart muscle (weakness of the heart)
  • Heart attack which end up damaging the heart muscle
  • Old age
  • History of previous infection of heart muscles called (endocarditis)

Symptoms of heart valve disease and diagnosis:

Patient with heart valve disease may not experience any symptoms but there might be some symptoms such as:

  • Breathing problem , shortness of breath
  • Swelling of the ankles and feet
  • History of tiredness

The heart valve disease and degree of severity will be diagnosed by an echocardiogram.

Treatment of heart valve

The treatment will depend on the cause of problem and the degree effect on the heart. Most valve problems can be treated using medicines or by valve heart surgery which depend on the severity of valve disease.

In mild cases patient may not need any treatment, they need regular follow up with an echocardiography to keep eyes on heart valve and severity.

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