Valvular Heart Disease - The Basics
The heart consists of 4 valves. These 4 valves are one way valves helping blood move through the right heart, the lungs, the left heart and back to the body. Malfunctioning valves leads to turbulent blood flow which can be heard with a stethoscope and are called murmurs. When these valves malfunction, the heart becomes inefficient and ultimately can lead to heart failure and even death!
REGURGITATION – LEAKING VALVES When valves don’t close normally, the blood leaks backwards forcing the heart to re-pump the blood. This backwards flow of blood will lead to congestion and symptoms. The main symptoms include swelling (usually in the legs) or shortness of breath. Over time regurgitant valves can progress to congestive heart failure and death.
STENOSIS – STIFF VALVES WHICH DON’T OPEN Stenotic valves don’t open normally. This forces chambers of the heart to work harder to move blood through these valves and will ultimately lead the heart becoming fatigued and unable to move blood forward. As with regurgitant valves, stenotic valves will also lead to symptoms including fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness or passing out, and ultimately congestive heart failure and death!