How Valve Disease Is Diagnosed and Treated

November 12, 2012

How Valve Disease Is Diagnosed and Treated

Valve disease has been linked to a number of conditions that can be extremely fatal that may or may not result in symptoms and may or may not need treatment.

Every heartbeat allows blood to flow in, through and out of your heart. Believe it or not, but your heart causes 100 gallons of blood to move through your body each hour. The heart pumps blood in just one direction with the heart valves playing integral roles in it, by opening and shutting after every heartbeat.

Valve Disease: Understanding The Heart’s Inner Workings

When pressure changes occur behind and in front of those heart valves, it allows them to open their leaflets at the right time and close them back tightly to keep blood from flowing back. There are four heart valves:

  • Aortic valve

  • Mitral valve

  • Pulmonary valve

  • Tricuspid valve

Blood that has no oxygen in it comes back from the body and into the upper right chamber of the heart. From the right chamber, it’s forced to travel the tricuspid valve to the lower right chamber, which is known as the left ventricle. The right ventricle ensures the blood is thrust through the pulmonary valve and to the lungs. When the blood is in the lungs, it gets its oxygen. When the right ventricle is thrusting the blood to the pulmonary valve, it is the tricuspid valve shuts off to stop the blood from flowing backwards to the right atrium.

The blood comes back from the lungs with oxygen and goes to the left atrium, which is the upper left chamber. This blood moves throughout the mitral valve to the lower left chamber called the left ventricle. The mitral valve shuts itself so that blood doesn’t backflow into the atrium. Now, the right ventricle pumps oxygenated blood into the lungs while the left ventricle pushes oxygenated blood through the aortic valve to the remainder of the body’s organs.

There are two kinds of issues that will disrupt the flow of blood going through the valves:

  • Stenosis – This occurs when the leaflets are not open enough, allowing a minute amount of blood to flow through. This takes place when leaflets have fused together, hardened or congealed.

  • Regurgitation – This occurs when a valve hasn’t closed right and blood begins leaking backwards.

In both cases, the heart must work harder. However, in regurgitation, the heart becomes dilated and cannot pump blood as easily through the body.

Why Does Valve Disease Occur In The First Place

Rheumatic fever, in the past, was the biggest reason for valve disease. However, valve disease, today, is linked to a number of things including:

  1. Weakening of valve tissue, which is the result of the body’s energy changes. It’s known as myxomatous degeneration and affects the mitral valve in elderly patients.

  2. Calcium buildup of the mitral and aortic valves, which causes them to harden. This is known as calcific degeneration.

  3. An aortic valve that’s not shaped right or a narrow mitral valve. This is typically a congenital defect or something a baby is born with.

  4. Using anti-obesity medications like Redux and fen-phen, which were taken off the market because of their ties to the heart valve disease.

  5. Infection of the lining in the walls and valves of the heart.

  6. Heart attack

  7. Coronary artery disease

Valve Disease Symptoms

The symptoms of valve disease vary depending on patients, the type of valve disease they have and the severity of it. In some cases, patients never experience symptoms and, in many other cases, the disease will strike over time… leading them to suffer with congestive heart failure. Valve disease may also cause the following ailments:

  • Cardiomyopathy

  • Arrhythmia

  • Blood clots

How Can Doctors Diagnose Valve Disease

A doctor will diagnose the condition by listening to the heart using a stethoscope and listening for any murmurs or clicking sounds. However, he/she may also order the following tests:

  • Chest x-rays

  • Echocardiography

  • Electrocardiography

  • Coronary Angiography

  • MRI

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