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Your cardiovascular system is made up of the heart and the blood vessels that transport blood all throughout your body. The heart, which is a large fist-sized muscle, is the core of your cardiovascular system. Located leftward in your chest, the heart works as a pump for the blood, which delivers oxygen...

Introduction

Valvular heart disease, commonly known as heart valve disease, occurs when the valves that regulate the direction of blood flow in the heart fail to open and close properly. This may lead the heart to work harder and enlarge, and eventually lead to possible heart failure and even death. Fortunately, valvular heart disease is often successfully treated with surgical heart valve replacement.
 
Anatomy
 
Your cardiovascular system is made up of the heart and the blood vessels that transport blood all throughout your body. The heart, which is a large fist-sized muscle, is the core of your cardiovascular system. Located leftward in your chest, the heart works as a pump for the blood, which delivers oxygen and nutrients to your body’s cells while carrying away waste products.
 
A thick wall, called the septum, divides your heart into four sections called chambers. The upper two chambers, called atria, receive incoming blood to the heart, while the bottom chambers, called ventricles, send blood outward from the heart.
 
Your heart manages dual pumping systems with one on the left side and one on the right side. The left side’s system comprises the left ventricle and left atrium. When you breathe in, your lungs infuse your blood with new oxygen. Your left atrium receives this newly oxygenated blood and moves it to the left ventricle, which sends it out from your heart to circulate all through the rest of your body.
 
The right side’s pumping system is composed of the right ventricle and right atrium. Deoxygenated blood that has finished circulating throughout the body comes back to the right atrium, which then sends it to the right ventricle. The blood is then sent by the right ventricle to the lungs, where it will receive a fresh supply of oxygen when you inhale.
 
Four valves prevent blood from flowing backward as it travels through the chambers of the heart. The tricuspid and mitral valves control flow from the atria to the ventricles, while the pulmonary and aortic valves regulate blood as it departs the ventricles.
 
Using a stethoscope, your doctor will listen to your heartbeat. If healthy, a heart will have a steady rhythm and produce a “lub-dub” sound whenever it beats. The closing of the mitral and tricuspid vales create the first sound in your heartbeat. The second sound comes from the aortic and pulmonary valves closing after blood leaves your heart.
 
Causes
 
Valvular heart disease may affect all four of the heart’s valves. Normally, the heart valves control blood flow direction through the heart by opening and closing. Normal oening and closing of the valves creates a normal, healthy heartbeat. With heart valve disease, the valves fail to properly open and close, and may leak or cause blood to flow backward into the heart chambers. This causes the heart to try to compensate by working harder to pump blood out of the heart. This can cause a heart murmur and result in an enlarged heart or heart failure over time.
 
Symptoms
 
Symptoms of valvular heart disease are similar to the symptoms of congestive heart failure. You may experience indigestion, loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting. You may have shortness of breath after activities or even just lying down. Your heartbeat may become irregular. Your ankles, legs, abdomen, and arms may become swollen and feel cool. You may experience fatigue, faintness, and weakness. You may sense heart palpitations or a rapid, irregular pulse. You may produce smaller-than-usual amounts of urine and need to urinate more often at night. You may have difficulty remaining alert, concentrating, remembering, and sleeping. You may sweat profusely and cough, particularly at nighttime. 
 
Diagnosis
 
Using a stethoscope, your doctor will listen to your heart to check if there is a heart murmur. Your doctor may conduct several tests to diagnose valvular heart disease, such as a chest X-ray, electrocardiogram, echocardiogram, or cardiac catheterization. These tests allow your doctor to view detailed images of your heart and evaluate your heart arteries, muscles, and valves.
 
Treatment
 
Treatment will be based on the severity and extent of your heart valve disease. Sometimes, careful monitoring will eliminate the need for treatment. While medications cannot cure valvular heart disease, they may be used to improve heart functioning. In some cases, narrowed or leaking heart valves will need to be treated with heart valve surgery.
 
Heart valve surgery is a highly successful open-heart surgery. It is performed under general anesthesia. A surgeon will repair or replace your heart valves with artificial or donor replacement valves. Heart valve surgery will relieve your symptoms and help prolong your life.
 
Prevention
 
Based on the type of surgery you will receive, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to take before you have dental procedures or other surgeries in the future.
 
Am I At Risk
 
Heart valve disease may be present from birth or result from endocarditis, rheumatic heart disease, or weakened heart muscles. Heart attacks can injure the valves. Certain medications may cause valve problems.
 
Complications
 
Left untreated, heart valve disease can cause heart failure or even death. Contact your doctor immediately if you experience symptoms of valvular heart disease. This condition is treated highly successfully with surgery.