Get To Know The 4 Heart Valves & Heart Valves Diseases

February 10, 2021 | Written By: Mohd Syafiq

Get to Know Your Heart Valve

Every normal human has 4 heart valves. It works to keep blood in your heart flowing smoothly in one direction. 

Blood will flow from the atrium to the ventricles through the tricuspid valve and the mitral valve. When the ventricular chamber is filled with blood, the tricuspid and mitral valves will close. This condition can prevent blood from flowing back into the atrium during ventricular contraction.

When the ventricle begins to contract, the pulmonary valve and the aortic valve open and blood is pumped out of the ventricle. Blood from the right ventricle passes through the pulmonary valve into the pulmonary artery, while blood from the left ventricle passes through the aortic valve to flow into the aorta and then send throughout the body.

Upon completion of the ventricular contraction, the aorta and pulmonary valves will close. This valve prevents blood from flowing back into the ventricle.

This process takes place in less than a second repeatedly with each heartbeat, allowing blood to flow directly to the heart, lungs, and entire limbs.

Heart Valve Disease

In each heartbeat, the valve will open and close. When the heart valve does not open or close correctly, it can disrupt blood flow in the heart. This can be caused by a valve that becomes too hard or too weak to close or open properly.

Who Is At Risk Of Heart Valve Disease?

The disease can happen to anyone regardless of age. People at high risk for the disease are: 

  • The elderly

  • Individuals with less physical activity

  • Individuals with a history of heart disease, such as endocarditis, high blood pressure or rheumatic fever.

  • Congenital heart problem

Symptoms of Heart Valve Disease

Various signs and symptoms can occur due to heart valve disease. Among the signs and symptoms of heart valve disease are:

  • Shortness of breath: This symptom is among the most common in patients with heart valve disease. It usually occurs when the patient begins to move actively such as doing daily activities and exercising. However, it can also occur when the patient is lying down. One of the signs is that the patient may need to sleep using a few pillows to elevate the neck position in order to breathe more easily.

  • Heart rate: The heartbeat can be felt so fast, irregular, the feeling of ups and downs in your chest.

  • Fatigue: Feeling too weak even to carry out normal daily activities including activities that do not require a lot of energy.

  • Feeling uncomfortable or pain in the chest: Feeling pressured or as if there is a heavy object pressing on the chest especially when doing activities or when going out in the cold air.

  • Dizziness and headache

  • Blackout or fainting 

  • Cough

  • Swollen In the legs or abdomen: Swelling in the legs is called edema in which the swollen part of the foot will leave an impression when pressed with the fingers. While swelling in your abdomen can cause you to feel bloated.

  • Abnormal heart sound (murmur)

Complications

  • Heart failure

  • Stroke

  • Blood clots

  • Death

What Causes Heart Valve Disease?

The causes that contribute to this condition usually occur due to health problems. But, for some cases, birth defects are also a cause of heart valve disease. Listed here are some of the health problems that can lead to or cause heart valve disease:

  • Aging - can lead to hardening of the heart valves 

  • Infective endocarditis, which is inflammation of the heart tissue due to infection

  • Rheumatic fever, inflammation of heart valve caused by bacteria called streptococcus

  • Aortic aneurysm, swelling or lumps that do not normally appear in aorta

  • Atherosclerosis, the hardening of arteries 

  • Myxomatous degeneration, damage to the connective tissue in the mitral valve

  • Lupus, an autoimmune disease

  • Coronary artery disease

  • Cardiomyopathy

  • Syphilitic Aortitis - inflammation or the aorta due to syphilis infection, usually in third stage

  • Tumor 

  • Side effects related to drugs

Types of Valvular Heart Disease

Heart valve disease can be divided into two types. The first type is stenosis, the problem of the heart valve space becomes narrow due to the valve being cramped, thickened or constricted. This causes the valve not able to open completely and the blood not be able to flow through it smoothly. This condition causes the heart to work harder to pump blood through this narrow valve. This condition over time, causes the heart muscle to thicken.

The second type is known as regurgitation in which the valve fails to close properly. This causes the blood to flow backwards after the valve is closed. Regurgitation causes the ventricles to pump a larger volume of blood than normal and can cause the heart space to become large and weaken the heart muscle.

Both stenosis and heart valve regurgitation can result in heart failure and it can occur in all heart valves. In addition, heart valve disease is also associated with an increased risk of cardiac arrhythmias. Another type of heart valve disease is atresia which is a situation where no valves are formed in the heart.

Examination & Treatment

Patients with heart valve problems usually have abnormal heartbeat. The doctor will hear the sound of the heart through a stethoscope during the physical examination and look for a heartbeat (murmur) that may indicate a problem with your heart valve.

Imaging and flow testing will be done after a physical examination to determine the condition of the heart. Then, the doctor will make a decision based on the test results and the patient's current condition.

  • X-ray of the chest: This test will show the shape, size and position of the heart because heart valve disease can cause the heart size to enlarge.

  • (ECG) and (EKG): This test uses sound waves (ultrasound) to produce images of the heart and arteries that surround it in detail.

  • Cardiac Catheterisation: This test allows the doctor to see if there are any problems with blood flow that may be due to heart valve problems.

Based on the condition of the heart valve, the symptoms and condition of the patient, the doctor will recommend several treatments such as:

  • Related medications and monitoring

  • Smokers are advice to quit smoking

  • Practicing a healthy lifestyle and balanced diet.

  • Surgery should be performed if the patient is found to be in a serious condition. The type of surgery depends on the degree of heart valve disease whether it will be repaired or replaced using an artificial valve.

What Do Heart Valve Disease Patients Need to Know?

  • Identify the type and degree of heart valve disease you are having

  • Tell all doctors and dentists if you have heart valve disease

  • Immediately contact a doctor if you have symptoms of infectious disease

  • Take care of your teeth and gums

  • Take antibiotics before undergoing a procedure that can cause bleeding 

  • Take medication according to instructions as prescribed by your doctor

  • See your doctor regularly so that monitoring can be done from time to time.

If you experience symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath and palpitations, please refer your condition to a health facility immediately. Heart disease is one of the highest contributors to death statistics. With the advancement of medical technology today, various treatments can be done to treat, control and prevent heart disease from getting worse. Survival rates are higher if the disease can be detected and treated at an early stage. 


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