Heart valve disease occurs when a heart valve is damaged
or narrowed and does not control or allow the normal flow of blood through and out
of the heart. Causes of heart valve disease include congenital heart disease, an abnormal
valve, or a rupture of a valve.
Heart valves operate like one-way gates, helping
blood flow in one direction between heart chambers as well as into and out of the
heart. A normal heart valve has flaps, called leaflets. When the heart pumps, the
leaflets open one way to allow blood to flow through. Between heartbeats, the leaflets
should close to form a tight seal so that blood does not leak backwards through the
If the heart valve is damaged, the leaflets may not form a tight seal,
and blood may leak backwards through the valve. This leakage is called regurgitation.
Heart valves can also become narrowed, which may block the flow of blood through
the heart. This narrowing is called stenosis.
Over time, a damaged valve may
lead to enlargement of the heart chambers, heart failure, and atrial fibrillation.
It can reduce blood flow to the muscles of the body, including the heart muscle itself,
which can result in symptoms or damage.
Treatment for heart valve disease depends
on the cause and severity. Close monitoring is sometimes all that is needed for those
who have mild or no symptoms, but a doctor may recommend surgery or a procedure to
repair or replace the valve in more serious cases.
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine & Rakesh
K. Pai, MD - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
This information does not replace the advice of a doctor.
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