What Is Structural Heart and Valve Disease?
Structural Heart and Valve Disease is characterized by damage to or a defect in one of the four heart valves: the mitral, aortic, tricuspid or pulmonary.
The mitral and tricuspid valves control the flow of blood between the atria and the ventricles (the upper and lower chambers of the heart).
The pulmonary valve controls the flow of blood from the heart to the lungs, and the aortic valve governs blood flow between the heart and the aorta, and thereby the blood vessels to the rest of the body.
The mitral and aortic valves are the ones most frequently affected by valvular heart disease.
Normally functioning valves ensure that blood flows with proper force in the proper direction at the proper time. In structural and valvular heart disease, the valves become too narrow and hardened (stenotic) to open fully, or are unable to close completely (leaky valve).
Structural Heart and Valve Disease symptoms can occur suddenly, depending upon how quickly the disease develops. If it advances slowly, then your heart may adjust and you may not notice the onset of any symptoms easily. Many of the symptoms are similar to those associated with congestive heart failure, such as
- Dizziness or fainting
- Chest pan
- Rapid weight gain
- Shortness of breath
- Swelling of the feet, ankles, hand or abdomen
- Causes and Risk Factors
There are many causes of Structural Heart and Valve Disease; some factors can be present at birth (congenital), while others may be acquired later in life. They include:
- Calcium buildup
- Deformed valve
- Heart valve tissue degenerated
- Bacterial endocarditis
- High blood pressure
- Heart attack damage
- Radiation therapy
- Rheumatic fever
During your examination, the doctor listens for distinctive heart sounds, known as heart murmurs, which indicate valvular heart disease. As part of your diagnosis, you may undergo one or more of the following tests:
- Cardiac Catheterization
- Chest X-Ray
- Echocardiogram (ECHO)
- Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)
- Stress Test
Because structural and valvular heart disease can be mild or severe, treatment options vary. Your doctor may suggest a treatment through medication or a surgical procedure to repair or replace a valve.