What is valvular heart disease?
Valvular heart disease includes any disease that affect the valves of the heart. These pathologies affect the aortic and mitral valve on the left side and the pulmonary and tricuspid valves on the right side of the heart. If they get worse and are not treated, they can affect the flow of blood through the heart and cause serious heart problems.
Valvular heart diseases can be classified into three groups according to their severity:
- Mild valvular heart disease – a mild disorder that does not require treatment. A follow up with the cardiologist is sufficient.
- Moderate valvular heart disease – requires comprehensive follow-up and in some cases the patient may require treatment.
- Severe valvular heart disease – usually requires surgical treatment, in many cases to replace the affected valve.
What are the symptoms of valvular heart disease?
The symptoms will vary depending on the type of valvular heart disease but generally, the patient will experience shortness of breath, fatigue, swelling around the ankles and feet, chest pain and may even lose consciousness during physical exertion.
Causes of valvular heart disease
Valvular heart disease can be congenital or acquired. The main causes include:
- Congenital heart disease – the patient was born with an abnormal valve.
- Rheumatic fever
- Cardiomyopathy – this disease of the heart muscle can damage the valves.
- Heart attack – these can leave damage to the heart muscle and valves.
- Previous infection with endocarditis
Can valvular heart disease be prevented?
Many of valvular heart diseases cannot be avoided, but there are measures that can be taken to minimise the risk, such as regular heart check-ups, maintaining a healthy diet and doing regular physical activity to keep your heart healthy.
Treatment of valvular heart disease
The treatment will depend on the type of valve disease and the degree of severity. Many cases can be treated with medication, while more severe cases may require surgery to repair or replace the valve.