Heart Valve Disease
What Are the Symptoms of Heart Valve Disease?
Symptoms of heart valve disease can include:
- Shortness of breath and/or difficulty catching your breath. You may notice this most when you are active (doing your normal daily activities) or when you lie down flat in bed. You may need to sleep propped up on a few pillows to breathe easier.
- Weakness or dizziness. You may feel too weak to carry out your normal daily activities. Dizziness can also occur, and in some cases, passing out may be a symptom.
- Discomfort in your chest. You may feel a pressure or weight in your chest with activity or when going out in cold air.
- Palpitations. This may feel like a rapid heart rhythm, irregular heartbeat, skipped beats, or a flip-flop feeling in your chest.
- Swelling of your ankles, feet, or abdomen. This is called edema. Swelling in your belly may cause you to feel bloated.
- Rapid weight gain. A weight gain of two or three pounds in one day is possible.
Symptoms of heart valve disease do not always relate to the seriousness of your condition. You may have no symptoms at all and have severe valve disease, requiring prompt treatment. Or, as with mitral valve prolapsed, you may have severe symptoms, yet tests may show your valve leak is not significant.
How Are Heart Valve Diseases Diagnosed?
Your heart doctor can tell if you have heart valve disease by talking to you about your symptoms, performing a physical exam, and giving you other tests.
During a physical exam, your doctor will listen to your heart to hear sounds the heart makes as the valves open and close. A murmur is a swishing sound made by blood flowing through a stenotic or leaky valve. Your doctor can also tell if your heart is enlarged or if your heart rhythm is irregular.
The doctor will listen to your lungs to hear if you are retaining fluid in your lungs, which shows your heart is not able to pump as well as it should.
By examining your body, the doctor can find clues about your circulation and the functioning of your other organs.
After the physical exam, the doctor may order diagnostic tests. These may include:
- Transesophageal echocardiography
- Cardiac catheterization (also called an angiogram)
By looking at the results, repeated over time, your doctor can also see the progress of your valve disease. This will help him or her make decisions about your treatment.
How Is Heart Valve Disease Treated?
Heart valve disease treatment depends on the type and severity of valve disease. There are three goals of treatment for heart valve disease: protecting your valve from further damage; lessening symptoms; and repairing or replacing valves.
Protecting your valve from further damage. If you have valve disease, you are at risk for developing endocarditis, a serious condition. People who have mitral valve prolapsed without thickening or regurgitation/leaking are not at risk of developing endocarditis.
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