Valvular heart disease refers to any condition affecting one or more of the heart’s valves, which are responsible for regulating blood flow through the heart’s chambers. There are four main valves in the heart:
- Aortic valve: Located between the left ventricle and the aorta (the body’s main artery), it regulates blood flow from the heart to the rest of the body.
- Mitral valve: Positioned between the left atrium and the left ventricle, it controls blood flow from the atrium into the ventricle.
- Tricuspid valve: Situated between the right atrium and the right ventricle, it manages blood flow from the atrium into the ventricle.
- Pulmonary valve: Found between the right ventricle and the pulmonary artery, it regulates blood flow from the heart to the lungs.
Valvular heart disease can be caused by various factors, including congenital defects, infections, rheumatic fever, age-related degeneration, or other underlying heart conditions. Common types of valvular heart disease include:
- Valvular Stenosis: This occurs when a valve becomes narrowed, impeding the flow of blood through the heart. Stenosis can affect any of the heart’s valves and typically results from a buildup of calcium deposits or scarring of the valve leaflets.
- Valvular Regurgitation (Insufficiency or Incompetence): Regurgitation happens when a valve does not close properly, allowing blood to leak backward (regurgitate) into the chamber it came from. This can lead to inefficient blood flow and strain on the heart.
- Mitral Valve Prolapse: In this condition, the flaps (leaflets) of the mitral valve bulge (prolapse) back into the left atrium during the heart’s contraction. It’s usually benign but can sometimes lead to mitral regurgitation or other complications.
- Infective Endocarditis: This is an infection of the inner lining of the heart chambers and valves, often caused by bacteria. It can damage heart valves, leading to valvular heart disease.
Management of valvular heart disease depends on the type and severity of the condition. Treatment may include medications to manage symptoms and prevent complications, surgical repair or replacement of the affected valve, or minimally invasive procedures such as balloon valvuloplasty or transcatheter valve repair or replacement. Regular monitoring and follow-up with a cardiologist are essential for individuals with valvular heart disease.