Heart valve disease affects one or more of the four valves that keep blood flowing through your heart in the same direction. Your heart is divided into four chambers and they are connected by valves. When your heart beats, the valves open one way to let blood flow into the next chamber. They then close to prevent the blood from flowing back again.
In both cases, your heart has to work harder to pump the same amount of blood.
Heart valve problems aren't always serious and can often be managed with regular check-ups and maybe medication. However, it sometimes causes more serious heart problems, such as atrial fibrillation or even heart failure, and might need surgery.
Depending on which valve is affected, usual symptoms of heart valve disease are:
You may also notice:
Sudden pain in your chest can be a symptom of a life-threatening condition such as a heart attack. If you notice any of the following symptoms, call 999 immediately:
It’s vital that the cause of your chest pain is diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.
Sometimes you won’t notice any symptoms at all and a heart valve problem is only picked up during another examination or because your doctor can hear it when they listen to your heart.
Your doctor may be able to detect heart valve disease by listening to your heart. However, they will usually need to refer you for tests, which could include:
You will usually be referred to a cardiologist, a doctor specialising in the heart and circulation.
Heart valve disease is more common in older people, but can affect younger people too.
The four main heart valves are called the:
The treatment will depend on which valve is affected, the cause and how serious it is.
Sometimes your doctor will decide that treatment isn’t necessary but will ask you to come back for regular check-ups.
Although medicines can’t repair damaged valves, they can control symptoms and reduce the risk of complications. Common treatments are:
In some cases your doctor may recommend surgery. Surgical options include:
Depending on your overall health, these surgeries can allow you to resume many everyday activities and enjoy an improved quality of life.