Valvular heart disease is a condition characterized by damage or disease affecting one or more valves of the heart. There are a number of potential causes of this condition, including endocarditis (an infection of the heart’s inner lining), atherosclerosis, myocardial infarction (heart attack), and rheumatic disease. At Cardiac Associates of North Jersey in Oakland, NJ, we can diagnose this condition and help you treat it before serious consequences occur.
How Do You Treat Valvular Heart Disease?
Regardless of the cause of valvular heart disease, it is very important that it is treated. Your ideal treatment method will depend on numerous factors, including the severity of your condition. Treatment options include medication and heart valve replacement via closed-heart surgery or open-heart surgery.
Do I Have This Condition?
The only way to tell for sure whether you suffer from valvular heart disease is to come in for an initial consultation with a heart expert. The symptoms of this condition may show slowly over time or very quickly. In the case of slow disease progression, you may not notice any symptoms until the disease is very advanced. If your disease is progressing quickly, you may notice such side effects as:
- Difficulty breathing
- Irregular heartbeat
- Pain in your chest
- Losing consciousness
- Rapid weight gain
How Is This Condition Diagnosed?
Sometimes, this condition can be diagnosed just from the way your heart sounds. For instance, we may be able to tell that you suffer from valvular heart disease based on the sound, rhythm, and location of a heart murmur. It is also sometimes possible to tell from listening to a heart what valve is affected and whether the problem is caused by stenosis or regurgitation. However, an echocardiogram is sometimes required to diagnose this condition.
What Are the Most Common Causes of This Condition?
Rheumatic disease is a condition that may develop if you are infected with bacteria that cause strep throat and do not take a full course of effective antibiotics. While your strep throat will resolve itself eventually, if you do not take antibiotics as prescribed by your doctor one or more of your heart valves can become scarred due to this infection.
Congenital Heart Valve Disease
Sometimes, people are born with a heart valve malformation, like a missing leaflet. Most commonly, people with congenital heart valve disease are missing a bicuspid aortic valve leaflet. While the bicuspid aortic valve usually has three leaflets, people are sometimes born with only two leaflets. Other congenital malformations can also cause valvular heart disease.
Similar to rheumatic disease, endocarditis affects the heart due to the effects of a severe infection. If you have a severe blood infection, it is possible for your heart’s inner lining to become infected. Over time, the leaflets of your heart valves can become severely damaged due to the infection settling on the valves. Also, this condition can be caused by intravenous drug use.
Other Forms of Heart Disease
Keep in mind, it is not just infections and physical birth defects that can contribute to this serious heart condition. For instance, you may develop this condition if you leave hypertension untreated for several years. The average heart beats over 36 million times per year and roughly 370 million times per decade. If your blood pressure is consistently high, your heart can naturally start to wear out even if you are relatively healthy otherwise.
Another potential cause of this condition is atherosclerosis. This condition occurs when too much plaque builds up inside the aorta where it attaches to the heart. To mitigate your risk of developing atherosclerosis, brush your teeth at least twice per day, floss at least once per day, and try to minimize your consumption of unhealthy foods. Consuming too much choline or saturated fat can cause plaque buildup in the heart.
Other Potential Causes of This Condition
Another potential cause of this condition is the natural aging process. Even if you don’t have chronic hypertension, you may still find that your heart wears out over time. The older you get, the more calcium deposits develop on your valves. Eventually, this thickens them significantly and makes them far less efficient than they should be. High-dose radiation exposure can also lead to excessively large calcium deposits on your valves.
Lupus and other autoimmune diseases are also known to cause this condition. The most common type of lupus is known as SLE (systemic lupus erythematosus). It can affect several organs and affects women nine times more than men. Some of the most common signs of this condition include hair loss, fever, swelling, pain, and fatigue. If you suspect you have lupus, it is highly advisable that you get your heart checked.
The Bottom Line
There are a number of potential causes of valvular heart disease, but the bottom line is that the condition needs to be treated regardless of the cause. Treatment options include medication, closed-heart surgery, and open-heart surgery. The type of surgery recommended for you depends on the cause and severity of your disease. If you have any concerns about your health, contact us today at Cardiac Associates of North Jersey in Oakland, NJ to schedule a consultation.
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