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Valvular Heart Disease

Valvular heart disease refers to a disease that affects at least one or more of the heart’s valves. The heart is comprised of four types of valves: the pulmonary and tricuspid valves on the left and the aortic and mitral valves on the right. The valves which are located at the exit point of each heart chamber ensures that the blood flows in one direction by opening and closing the chambers as the blood flows through each chamber. When the valves do not function as they should this may result in the leakage of blood backwards which in turn, disrupts cardiovascular circulation.

Symptoms Of Valve Disease

As with all symptoms associated with any disease it is possible for them to closely resemble those of other diseases. Therefore it is still essential to be assessed by a medical doctor to discern their underlying cause.

Shortness Of Breath:-
Shortness of breath is characterized by any difficulty experienced when attempting to breathe normally. This symptom usually manifests itself after performing physical activity and is often worsened by over- exertion. It may also occur when lying down on the back while resting or sleeping. Most people who are affected by this symptom realize that they need to sleep with two or more pillows to breathe comfortably at night. This symptom may also be attributed to a pulmonary condition.

Palpitations are often described as an abnormal awareness of the beating heart. The feeling will often be accompanied by what is expressed as irregular heartbeats or the sensation of skipping heartbeats.

Chest Discomfort:-
Feeling pressure within the chest cavity especially when exposed to cold air is a symptom that is often associated with heart disease in general. However this may also be as a result of a digestive disorder, pancreatitis or any other condition that causes similar chest pain.

Weakness Or Dizziness :-
A bout of dizziness or sudden weakness that may affect regular activity may be experienced with this and many other types of conditions that may include dehydration, anaemia, viral infection and pregnancy. It is also quite possible to faint as a result of dizziness.

Swelling Of Limbs And Abdomen:-
This type of swelling results from fluid retention due to poor circulation and is refered to as oedema. It usually affects the feet and ankles but may also be present in the abdomen. This type of swelling does not necessarily denote the presence of a serious condition and may be as the result of natural ageing, sitting in a particular position for a prolonged period or pregnancy. However in most cases it is still advisable to be medically assesed to rule out any other possible life threatening complications.

Sudden And Rapid Weight Gain:-
Gaining as much as three pounds daily or more may also be a probable sign of this disease. However weight gain be as a direct result of over eating or a thyroid condition, specifically hypothyroidism.

Diagnosis And Treatment

To diagnose the condition the doctor will perform an thorough physical examination. When this is completed other tests will be executed to guarantee that a condition is detected before it worsens. Typical diagnostic tests will generally include echocardiography, cardiac catherization, radionuclide scan, MRI magnetic resonance imaging and transesophageal echocardiography. When a diagnosis is confirmed it will be necessary to manage and treat the disease to improve the overall outcome.

Treatment for the disease will likely encompass: the administering of medications to lessen the intensity of the disease; antibiotic treatment to lessen the probability of developing any infections and surgery to repair or replace the valve if possible.

How Is Heart Valve Disease Treated?

Treatment for heart valve disease 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 prolapse without thickening or regurgitation/leaking are not at risk of developing endocarditis.

You are still at risk for endocarditis, even if your valve is repaired or replaced through surgery. To protect yourself:

  • Tell your doctors and dentist you have valve disease. You may want to carry an identification card with this information. The American Heart Association website ( has a bacterial endocarditis wallet card that you may download; or call your local American Heart Association office or the national office at 1-800-AHA-USA1.
  • Call your doctor if you have symptoms of an infection (sore throat, general body aches, fever).
  • Take good care of your teeth and gums to prevent infections. See your dentist for regular visits.
  • Take antibiotics before you undergo any procedure that may cause bleeding, such as any dental work (even a basic teeth cleaning), invasive tests (any test that may involve blood or bleeding), and most major or minor surgery. Your doctor can provide you with a card that provides specific antibiotic guidelines.

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