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Heart Valve Disease

Treating Valvular Heart Disease

Inside your heart, four one-way valves open with each beat to allow blood to flow in and out. When these valves don’t work correctly, this is known as heart valve disease, which can be caused by chronic heart conditions, illness, or aging. The cardiac specialists at Bassett Healthcare Network provide diagnosis and treatment for heart valve disease and can help restore your heart health.

Heart Valve Disease Symptoms

Heart valve disease doesn’t always exhibit noticeable signs or symptoms. In many instances, it’s only discovered when your primary care practitioner hears a heart murmur or other atypical sound through a stethoscope and investigates the need for further diagnostic heart services.

Some common symptoms associated with heart valve disease include:

  • Heart fluttering or palpitations when you exert yourself
  • A fast heartbeat when you’re active
  • Chest pain
  • Symptoms of congestive heart failure, such as swollen feet and legs, fatigue, and shortness of breath

Types of Heart Valve Disorders

Since the heart has four chambers, there are four valves to control the forward flow of blood and prevent any backward leakage: the aortic, mitral, pulmonary, and tricuspid valves. Any one of these four valves can become weakened or damaged, each presenting its own specific set of heart valve disorders.

The most common types of valvular heart disease are:

  • Valvular regurgitation or insufficiency, which is a disorder that allows some blood to flow backwards between heartbeats
  • Valvular stenosis, where the valve stiffens and restricts blood flow
  • Atresia, a birth condition where a heart valve has no opening
  • Mitral valve prolapse, also called Barlow syndrome, which occurs when the valve between the heart’s upper and lower left chambers does not close properly
  • Aortic valve stenosis, a narrowing of the valve in the large blood vessel (aorta) connected to the heart

Why Heart Valve Disease Occurs

Possible causes of heart valve disease include aging, illnesses that go untreated, and other heart conditions, such as high blood pressure. Frequent causes of heart valve disease include: 

  • Congenital problems that develop in the womb
  • Rheumatic fever, caused by an untreated strep infection
  • Infection of the heart lining
  • Heart attacks that result in scar tissue on the heart
  • Untreated hypertension
  • Changes to the tissues of the heart valves due to normal aging

Heart Valve Disease Treatment

Some heart valve diseases can be treated with medications. At Bassett Healthcare Network, the cardiac care team will evaluate the extent of your heart valve damage and create a treatment plan that could start with medications. In some instances, you may undergo heart surgery to repair or replace the damaged valve. 

The best strategy for avoiding heart valve disease is to treat infections without delay (including strep throat), follow a heart-healthy diet, and exercise regularly. If you think you might have heart valve disease, talk with your primary care practitioner about your symptoms.

Bassett Healthcare Network provides care for patients with heart valve disease in Cooperstown, Herkimer, Delhi, Cobleskill, Little Falls, Oneonta, and other locations throughout Central New York.