Is heart valve disease dangerous?
Heart valve disease is a form of heart disease, just as coronary artery disease and heart failure are also heart diseases.
If not addressed, heart valve disease could be fatal as it causes heart rhythm problems and even heart failure.
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The role of heart valves
A healthy heart has four valves; one for each chamber of the heart. They are flaps which open and shut at the right time so that blood keeps moving forward through the heart in the correct direction.
(Image source: Singapore Heart Foundation)
Types of heart valve disease
Heart valve disease could be congenital in childhood. They can also develop in adults because of infections and other heart conditions later in life.
Common heart valve abnormalities include:
This occurs when the valve bulges back rather than closing tight – a condition called prolapse. The prolapsed valve will cause a small amount of blood to leak backwards through the valve.
Valve stenosis is a condition where the valve opening becomes smaller, constricting blood flow and reducing heart function. This is due to the valve flaps becoming thick and stiff, or even fusing together.
Patients with heart valve abnormalities may not develop symptoms immediately, especially if their conditions are mild. Over time, the condition may deteriorate and symptoms will start to surface. Some of the symptoms of heart valve disease include:
- Light headedness
- Chest discomfort
- Shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations
- Nausea and loss of appetite
- Weight gain
- Swelling of ankles, feet, legs or abdomen
Most heart valve conditions can be treated with medication. Surgery might be recommended to repair or even replace the faulty heart valve. Any abnormality in the heart valve will affect the proper and adequate flow of blood throughout the body which could lead to heart failure or other life-threatening conditions. Hence, it is important to seek early medical treatment for heart valve disease.
This article has been verified medically by Dr Lim Chong Hee, consultant thoracic and cardiovascular surgeon at Surgi-TEN Specialists, Farrer Park Hospital (Singapore).