Heart valve disease develops once the heart valves no longer function normally. There are various types of heart valve disease. An individual with the condition usually have evident symptoms.
What are the indications of heart valve disease?
- Shortness of breath or difficulty catching your breath. This is evident while active during normal activities or when lying flat in bed. There is a need to sleep propped up on a few cushions to allow easier breathing.
- Chest discomfort or pressure in the chest during activity or when exposed to cold air.
- Dizziness or weakness during daily activities. In some cases, passing out can also occur.
- Palpitations that can be felt as rapid heart rhythm, skipped beats or an erratic heartbeat
- Swollen feet, ankles or abdomen.
- Rapid weight gain where the individual can gain 2-3 pounds in a day.
The indications of heart valve disease are not always related to the severity of the condition. An individual might have no symptoms at all while a severe case requires immediate treatment.
What are the types?
- Valvular stenosis – occurs if a heart valve does not completely open due to fused or stiff leaflets. The narrowed opening causes the heart to strain to pump blood through.
- Valvular insufficiency – this occurs once a valve does not tightly close. In case the valves are not fully sealed, some blood will drip backwards across the valve. As the seepage becomes worse, the heart has to strain harder to compensate for the leaking valve and there is reduced blood flow to the entire body.
The treatment for heart valve disease depends on the type and severity of the condition. The 3 objectives of treatment include – protecting the valve from further damage, reducing the symptoms and repairing or replacing the damaged valves.
Protecting the valves from further damage
- The individual should inform his/her doctor and dentist of the condition.
- Consult a doctor if any indications of an infection are present.
- Proper care of the teeth and gums to prevent infections.
- Using antibiotics before undergoing any procedure that can result to bleeding such as dental work, invasive tests and major or minor surgery.
Medications are prescribed to manage the symptoms as well as lessen the risk of additional valve damage. Certain medications should be discontinued after valve surgery to correct the issue. Other medications might be prescribed as well.
Surgery and other procedures
The diagnostic tests are used to determine the type, location and extent of the heart valve disease. The results of the tests, heart structure, age and lifestyle of the individual are used by the doctor to determine the suitable procedure.
Surgery include fixing the heart valve or replacement. The valves are fixed or replaced using conventional surgery or a procedure that is minimally invasive.
Disclaimer / More Information
The information posted on this page on heart valve disease is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize and manage heart conditions including heart valve disease, register for first aid training at one of our training centers located throughout Canada. The training centers are located in Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Kelowna, Surrey, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax.