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Valvular Heart Disease

  • What is Valvular Heart Disease?

    Valvular heart disease refers to the disease of the heart valves. Heart valves act like doors to control the blood flow between the different parts of the heart. It can affect one or more heart valves, damaging them until they do not work properly. Different valvular heart diseases involve different valves, and some can affect more than one valve.

    Valve diseases can consist of congenital abnormalities (present at birth), or they can develop later in life as a result of infections or degeneration.

    There are 2 major types of valvular heart disease:

    • Valvular insufficiency, which it occurs when the valve does not close tightly enough
    • Valvular stenosis, which occurs when the opening of the valve is smaller than normal
  • There are several causes that lead to valvular heart disease:

    • Congenital (defects present at birth)
    • Degeneration of valve tissues with age
    • Some drugs (eg. migraine medications, diet pills) and radiation therapy (cancer treatment)
    • Heart attack, atherosclerosis (build-up of fatty deposits in arteries), and high blood pressure (hypertension)
    • Infections including rheumatic fever and infective endocarditis
  • At first, you may not notice any symptoms even if the damage to your affected valve is severe. However, the symptoms can develop to include:

    • Fainting
    • Tiredness
    • Irregular heart beats
    • Shortness of breath when stressed
    • Swollen ankles
  • Different treatments are available for different valvular heart diseases, depending on the valves involved and the severity of the damage. The treatments include:

    • Medication, though it is important to go for regular follow-ups to prevent recurrence
    • Non-surgical intervention:
      1. Balloon valvuloplasty is recommended for patients whose valves are narrowed. A tiny balloon catheter (thin tube) is directed to the target valve and inflated and deflated several times until the valve opening is widened sufficiently.
    • Surgery may be needed when several valves are severely damaged and you may be referred to a cardiologist or a cardiac surgeon:
      1. Valve repairs result in fast recovery from surgery, very good survival rates and no need for life-long medical therapy, while maintaining your original valves
      2. Valve replacement is usually for more complicated cases with severely damaged valves. This is a minimally invasive approach where the old valve is replaced with a new one.
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