Heart Valve Disease: The Silent Threat To Human Life

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Introduction of Heart Valve Disease

Introduction of Heart Valve Disease

Heart valve disease or valvular heart disease is a serious disease. But if its symptoms are recognized on time, it can also be cured. The heart is made up of four valves, which open when blood goes into the heart and close when blood goes in the opposite direction.

But when these valves deteriorate, they become compressed and hardened. This makes the valves unable to open or close due to the flow of blood. This condition is called heart valve disease. In this, our heart valves stop working.

Heart valve disease can also be present from birth. In most cases, it is found to be congenital. This problem can also arise due to a heart attack or any damage to the heart. Heart valve disease is a serious illness, but not in all cases. In some cases, it can be cured with minor medicines.

But in some cases, it requires medical procedures and surgery as well. This blog will cover all the comprehensive information on this medical condition.

What exactly are the four valves?

There are four valves in the human heart which are named as tricuspid, pulmonary, mitral, and aortic. All the valves have tissue flaps that open and shut with each pulse.

The flaps guarantee that blood flows in the proper direction throughout the heart’s four chambers and throughout the body. Their primary role is to keep blood flowing unidirectionally with minimal resistance.

Where are the valves located in the heart?

Where are the valves located in the heart

The heart is made up of four chambers: two atria (upper chambers) and two ventricles (bottom chambers). As blood leaves each chamber of the heart, it goes via a valve. The valves prevent blood from flowing backward.

The right side valve is called the tricuspid valve because it has three flaps that are closed in the relaxed position, and the left side is called the mitral or bicuspid valve because it has two flaps that remain closed.

Apart from these, two valves are present at the mouth of the aorta and pulmonary artery. These valves are there because they prevent blood from flowing back into the ventricle when the heart relaxes after a contraction. These are half-moon shaped and hence also called semilunar or semilunar valves. These are called aortic and pulmonary valves depending on their location.

 What are heart valve diseases?

What are heart valve diseases

The heart is a wonderful organ. It is a mechanical marvel that has been properly designed. The heart gathers blood in little compartments before pumping it out with maximum effort.

Unlike turbine-driven water pumps, which move water in only one direction, the heart has no contraction direction and evenly distributes force in the form of pressure in all directions.

To avoid blood backflow, the cardiovascular system requires valves to seal strongly against pumping pressure. The endocardium, or inner lining of the heart, expands as flaps to produce valves. Several flaps seal in the direction of the thrust, preventing blood backflow.

When these flaps fail to seal correctly or leak, the valve loses its ability to regulate blood flow, wasting the heart’s pumping energy. As a result, the atria begin to feel the pressure of forceful ventricular contractions.

Heart Valve Disease Symptoms

Heart Valve Disease Symptoms

Surprisingly, individuals with heart valve disease can go through prolonged periods without manifesting any discernible symptoms, with some indicators remaining concealed for years. However, the initial symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath and/or difficulty catching your breath: This is most noticeable when you are active (performing your typical daily activities) or when you sleep flat in bed. To breathe easier, you may need to sleep raised up on a couple of pillows. 
  • Chest Pain: Heart valve disease can lead to chest pain, which should not be dismissed as a common cold if home remedies prove ineffective. Seeking immediate medical attention is crucial.
  • Stomach Swelling: Ignoring heart valve disease over an extended period can result in swelling in the stomach, particularly in advanced stages.
  • Fatigue: Fatigue is a prevalent symptom across various heart conditions, and in heart valve disease, patients experience tiredness even after minimal physical activity. Simple tasks may induce labored breathing, making it challenging to sustain energy levels.
  • Swelling in Feet or Ankles: Heart valve disease may also manifest as swelling in the feet or ankles. Initially mistaken for normal swelling, it is essential to seek medical evaluation if such symptoms arise.
  • Dizziness or Fainting: Alongside fatigue, dizziness can be an early symptom of heart valve disease. While dizziness can be attributed to various causes, its occurrence in conjunction with other symptoms warrants prompt attention to avoid negligence.
  • Palpitations: This might be a quick heartbeat, an irregular heartbeat, missed beats, or a flip-flop sensation in your chest.

Heart valve disease symptoms may not necessarily correspond to the severity of your problem. You might have no symptoms but have serious valve disease that requires immediate treatment. Alternatively, as with mitral valve prolapse, you may have considerable symptoms although testing reveals that the valve leak is minor.

Heart Valve Disease Causes

Heart Valve Disease Causes

Heart valve illness can arise before birth (congenital) or develop later in life (acquired). The reason for valve disease is sometimes unknown. 

  • Congenital Valve Disease: The aortic or pulmonic valve is most commonly affected by this type of valve disease. Valves may be the wrong size, have malformed leaflets, or be improperly joined leaflets.
  • The Disease Of The Bicuspid Aortic Valve: This is an aortic valve condition that occurs at birth. The bicuspid aortic valve contains just two leaflets or cusps instead of the usual three. The valve may be stiff (unable to open or shut correctly) or leaky (unable to seal firmly) if the third leaflet is missing.
  • Valve Illness That Developed Over Time: This includes issues that arise with previously normal valves. Changes in the structure of your valve may occur as a result of a number of illnesses or infections, such as rheumatic fever or endocarditis. 
  • Rheumatic Fever: Rheumatoid arthritis is an untreated bacterial infection (typically strep throat) that causes it. Fortunately, with the development of antibiotics to treat it in the 1950s, this illness has been considerably less prevalent. The first infection, which causes inflammation of the heart valves, frequently occurs in youngsters. However, symptoms associated with inflammation may not appear for 20-40 years.
  • Endocarditis: This happens when organisms, particularly bacteria, enter the circulation and assault the heart valves, creating growths, holes, and scarring. This can result in leaking valves. Endocarditis microorganisms can enter the bloodstream after dental treatments, surgery, IV medication usage, or serious illnesses. Endocarditis is more likely in people who have valve problems. The valves of the heart can undergo a variety of alterations. The chordae tendineae or papillary muscles can stretch or rupture; the valve annulus can dilate (widen); or the valve leaflets can become fibrotic (stiff and calcified).
  • Mitral valve prolapse (MVP): Mitral valve prolapse (MVP) is a prevalent ailment that affects 1% to 2% of the general population. During heart contraction, MVP causes the mitral valve leaflets to flop back into the left atrium. MVP causes the valve tissues to become aberrant and flexible, causing the valve to leak. However, the illness seldom causes symptoms and is rarely addressed. Coronary artery disease, heart attack, cardiomyopathy, syphilis, high blood pressure, aortic aneurysms, and connective tissue disorders are some of the other reasons for valve dysfunction. Tumors, some medicines, and radiation are less prevalent causes of valve disease.

Common diseases affecting heart valves

Heart valves are mainly affected by ‘Rheumatic Heart Valve Disease’ and ‘Degenerative Heart Valve Disease’. First of all, if we talk about ‘Rheumatic Heart Valve Disease’, it is autoimmune in nature. The immune system of people suffering from it works against the heart valves, it usually affects young people.

Degenerative heart valve disease occurs more often in older people because as we grow older, aortic valve calcification and stenosis occur in some people. Some people are also born with it, some people have only two flaps in the aortic valve since childhood instead of the normal three flaps. People over the age of 40 are at greater risk of developing degenerative heart valve disease.

Treatments for Heart Valve Disease

Treatments

Heart valve disease can be managed. Special procedures can be used to repair the valve surgically. Not only that but every valve that becomes broken may be replaced. Open cardiac surgery is a viable option. The sufferer can be maintained healthy for a long period by replacing the valve.

Complications

Many consequences can arise from heart valve disease, including: 

  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Clots in the blood 
  • Heart rhythm problems
  • Death

Conclusion

Knowing and detecting heart valve disease is critical for prompt intervention and effective treatment. The four valves of the heart are critical in regulating blood flow, and any degeneration can lead to major consequences. While some instances may be treated with drugs, others may necessitate surgical operations.

Recognizing signs like shortness of breath and chest discomfort is critical for early detection. Valve diseases can be congenital or develop over time due to various factors. Treatment methods, including surgical treatments, provide hope for a cure.

However, complications such as heart attack and stroke emphasize the importance of proactive care and regular medical check-ups in addressing heart valve disease.

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