A valve that is diseased or damaged can affect the flow of blood through the heart. There are two main types of valve problem:
Valve stenosis. This means that the opening of the valve is narrowed and the valve does not open fully. So, there is some restriction in blood flow through the valve.
Valve regurgitation (sometimes called valve incompetence, or a leaky valve). This means that the valve does not close properly and there is backflow of blood through the leaky valve.
Any of the valves can be affected by these problems. However, the mitral and aortic valves are the ones that most commonly become diseased.
This is one of the most common causes of leaky heart valves. The structures supporting the heart valves weaken and stretch over time and this prevents the valves from closing properly.
Rheumatic heart disease is a general term which means any heart problem which develops after having an episode of rheumatic fever.
Other causes of valve disease include:
A doctor may hear a heart murmur or other abnormal noises when listening with a stethoscope. Murmurs and noises are due to blood passing through abnormal valves, or to abnormal movement of valves. There are typical murmurs and noises which occur with each heart valve problem.
Any treatment will depend on which valve is affected and the severity of the heart valve problem.
Mild cases may not require any regular medication. Some medicines may be prescribed to help ease symptoms, or to help prevent complications. For example:
Surgery to stretch, repair or replace the valve may be needed in some cases. Surgical treatment has greatly improved the outlook for many cases of severe valve disease. Surgery has a very good success rate.
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