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Heart Valve Disease

The heart has four valves – one for each chamber of the heart. The mitral valve and the tricuspid valve are located between the atria (upper heart chambers) and the ventricles (lower heart chambers. The aortic valve and pulmonic valve are located between the ventricles and the major blood vessels that leave the heart. Each valve is composed of thin flaps of tissue known as leaflets. These leaflets open to let blood flow through the heart and close to stop blood from flowing backward into the heart.

Heart valve disease occurs when the valves do not work properly. It can be caused by either stenosis or insufficiency. Valve disease can be either congenital or acquired and sometimes it can occur for unknown reasons.

Heart valve disease is typically caused by rheumatic fever and bacterial (infective) endocarditis. Other causes of heart valve disease may include coronary artery disease, heart attacks, syphilis, hypertension, drug abuse, tumors and radiation.

Types of Heart Valve Disease

Mitral Valve Stenosis

The mitral valve separates the upper and lower left chambers of the heart. Mitral valve stenosis occurs when the valve becomes narrowed. This prevents the valve from fully opening and blocks blood from flowing between the two chambers.

Tricuspid Valve Stenosis

The function of the tricuspid valve is to prevent blood from flowing back into the right atrium. Tricuspid valve stenosis occurs when the valves leaflets are too stiff and do not open wide enough, restricting blood flow.

Aortic Valve Stenosis

The function of the aortic valve is to allow blood to flow away from the heart and prevent blood from flowing back into the heart. If the valve opening becomes narrowed, aortic stenosis will result, causing the heart to work harder and the walls of the ventricle to become thicker.

Pulmonary Valve Stenosis

Pulmonary valve stenosis is a rare condition that slows the blood flow from the heart to the lungs. Over the course of time, the heart’s muscle becomes overworked and the right ventricle becomes enlarged. This condition is typically congenital but can occur as a complication of another illness.

Treatment of heart valve disease will depend on the valve that is affected and the severity of the disease. Treatment can range from watchful waiting to medication and sometimes, in more extreme cases heart valve surgery.