Heart Valve Disease

Heart valve disease occurs when a heart valve is damaged or narrowed and does not control or allow the normal flow of blood through and out of the heart. Causes of heart valve disease include congenital heart disease, an abnormal valve, or a rupture of a valve. Heart valves operate like one-way gates, helping blood flow…

Heart Valve Disease

Heart valve disease occurs when a heart valve is damaged or narrowed and does not control or allow the normal flow of blood through and out of the heart. Causes of heart valve disease include congenital heart disease, an abnormal valve, or a rupture of a valve.

Heart valves operate like one-way gates, helping blood flow in one direction between heart chambers as well as into and out of the heart. A normal heart valve has flaps, called leaflets. When the heart pumps, the leaflets open one way to allow blood to flow through. Between heartbeats, the leaflets should close to form a tight seal so that blood does not leak backwards through the valve.

If the heart valve is damaged, the leaflets may not form a tight seal, and blood may leak backwards through the valve. This leakage is called regurgitation.

Heart valves can also become narrowed, which may block the flow of blood through the heart. This narrowing is called stenosis.

Over time, a damaged valve may lead to enlargement of the heart chambers, heart failure, and atrial fibrillation. It can reduce blood flow to the muscles of the body, including the heart muscle itself, which can result in symptoms or damage.

Treatment for heart valve disease depends on the cause and severity. Close monitoring is sometimes all that is needed for those who have mild or no symptoms, but a doctor may recommend surgery or a procedure to repair or replace the valve in more serious cases.

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Heart Valve Disease

What is heart valve disease? Heart valve disease is the term used for a number of conditions that affect the four valves of the heart. A heart valve disease happens when any of the heart’s valves either cannot open well enough to let blood flow through (stenosis) or cannot close well enough to prevent backflow of the…

Heart Valve Disease

Topic Overview

What is heart valve disease?

Heart valve disease is the term used for a number of conditions that affect the four valves of the heart.

A heart valve disease happens when any of the heart's valves either cannot open well enough to let blood flow through (stenosis) or cannot close well enough to prevent backflow of the blood (regurgitation). Heart valve disease can affect any of the four valves in different ways, including a combination of stenosis and regurgitation.

These diseases include:

What happens if you have a heart valve disease?

A heart valve disease affects how well blood flows through your heart.

Your heart is divided into two separate pumping systems—right and left:

  • The right side of your heart receives oxygen-poor blood from your veins and pumps it to your lungs to take up fresh oxygen.
  • The left side of your heart receives oxygen-rich blood from your lungs and pumps it through your arteries to your body.

Your heart has four separate chambers that pump blood—two on the right side and two on the left side:

  • Right atrium
  • Right ventricle
  • Left atrium
  • Left ventricle

Blood travels through your heart and lungs in four steps. In each step, it must pass through a valve.

  • Step 1: The right atrium receives oxygen-poor blood from the body and pumps it through the tricuspid valve to the right ventricle.
  • Step 2: The right ventricle pumps the oxygen-poor blood through the pulmonary valve to the lungs.
  • Step 3: The left atrium receives oxygen-rich blood from the lungs and pumps it through the mitral valve to the left ventricle.
  • Step 4: The left ventricle pumps the oxygen-rich blood through the aortic valve to the entire body.

See a picture of the heart and its chambers, valves, and blood flow.

Credits

Current as ofApril 9, 2019

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: Rakesh K. Pai, MD - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Michael P. Pignone, MD, MPH, FACP - Internal Medicine

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated, disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Learn how we develop our content.