About five million Americans are diagnosed with valvular heart disease every year. While this disease sometimes doesn’t manifest itself in any symptoms, it can be life-threatening if left untreated.
At Cardiac Associates of North Jersey, we’re committed to providing our patients with a broad range of treatment for heart-related conditions, including valvular heart disease. If you’d like more information about our practice or are interested in scheduling a consultation appointment, contact us today.
What is Valvular Heart Disease?
Valvular heart disease is a condition characterized by damage or defect of one of the heart valves. These valves lie at the exit of each of the four heart chambers and maintain one-way blood flow through the heart. These valves make sure that the blood flows freely in a forward direction with no backward leakage.
The four valves of the heart are the:
- Mitral valve
- Aortic valve
- Tricuspid valve
- Pulmonary valve
The mitral and tricuspid valves control the flow of blood between the upper and lower chambers of the heart. The pulmonary valve controls blood flow from the heart to the lungs, while the aortic valve controls blood flow between the heart and the aorta.
When a valve is functioning normally, blood flows with a proper amount of force in a forward direction. When a valve is affected by valvular heart disease, it malfunctions in one of two ways:
- Stenotic valvular disease: The valves become narrow and hardened, so they are unable to open fully. This causes the heart to enlarge and thicken to compensate for the slower blood flow. This thickening makes the heart lose elasticity and efficiency.
- Insufficient valvular disease: The valves cannot close completely, allowing blood to leak back into the chamber that it previously exited. This pooled blood has a greater propensity to clot, which increases the risk of stroke or pulmonary embolism.
What Causes Valvular Heart Disease?
Valvular heart disease can either be present at birth or acquired later in life. If caused later in life, it is usually the result of:
- Degeneration of tissue as a result of aging
- Rheumatic fever
- High blood pressure
- Bacterial endocarditis
- Heart attack
What are the Symptoms of Valvular Heart Disease?
The severity of the symptoms associated with this disease sometimes do not directly correlate to the seriousness of each case. Severe symptoms may accompany a minor leak, while no symptoms may be present in serious cases of the disease.
If symptoms do appear, they are usually present as chest pain, fatigue, dizziness, fainting, fever, or rapid weight gain.
If you suspect that you or someone you love has valvular heart disease, we can help. At Cardiac Associates of North Jersey, our dedicated team of doctors can both diagnose and treat cases of valvular disease. Contact us today to schedule a consultation appointment.