Heart valve disease occurs when a heart valve is damaged or
narrowed and does not control or allow the normal flow of blood through and out
of the heart. Causes of heart valve disease include congenital heart disease, an abnormal
valve, or a rupture of a valve.
Heart valves operate like one-way gates, helping blood flow in one
direction between heart chambers as well as into and out of the heart. A normal
heart valve has flaps, called leaflets. When the heart pumps, the leaflets open
one way to allow blood to flow through. Between heartbeats, the leaflets should
close to form a tight seal so that blood does not leak backwards through the
If the heart valve is damaged, the leaflets may not form a tight
seal, and blood may leak backwards through the valve. This leakage is called
Heart valves can also become narrowed,
which may block the flow of blood through the heart. This narrowing is called
Over time, a damaged valve may lead to enlargement of the heart
chambers, heart failure, and atrial fibrillation. It can reduce blood flow to
the muscles of the body, including the heart muscle itself, which can result in
symptoms or damage.
Treatment for heart valve disease depends on the cause and
severity. Close monitoring is sometimes all that is needed for those who have
mild or no symptoms, but a doctor may recommend surgery to repair or replace
the valve in more serious cases.
January 23, 2013
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
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