Heart Valve Disease

Heart Valve Disease

Malfunctioning of one or more of the valves in the heart is known as heart valve disease. The four heart valves open and close like doors of the heart to keep the blood flowing through the heart in the correct direction. If a valve doesn’t open or close all the way, it may drastically change the flow of blood through the heart to the rest of the body.

The prevalence of the most common valvular heart disease has been increasing steadily with approximately 4.1 crore people affected by it.

What are the symptoms of heart valve disease?

Symptoms vary depending on the type of heart valve disease and in some people with heart valve disease might not have symptoms for many years. When symptoms occur, they might include:

  • Shortness of breath at rest or when active or lying down.
  • Fatigue.
  • Chest pain.
  • Dizziness.
  • Swelling of the ankles and feet.
  • Fainting.
  • Irregular heartbeat.

What are the causes and risk factors of Heart Valve Disease?

It helps to know how the heart works to understand the causes of heart valve disease.
There are four valves in the heart that keep blood flowing in the right direction as follows:

  • Aortic valve.
  • Mitral valve.
  • Pulmonary valve.
  • Tricuspid valve.

Each valve has flaps that open and close once during each heartbeat. In case the valve flap doesn’t open or close properly, less blood moves out of the heart to the rest of the body.

Types of heart valve disease include:

Stenosis: When the valve flaps become thick or stiff, they join together and its opening becomes narrowed to reduce the blood flow.

Regurgitation: Blood leaks backward if the valve flaps do not close tightly.

Prolapse: The valve flaps become stretched out and floppy and bulges backward like a parachute which led to regurgitation.

Atresia: Non-formation of the valve may lead to a solid sheet of tissue blocking the blood flow between the heart chambers. This type usually affects the pulmonary valve.

The risk factors of heart valve disease:

  • Aging
  • Some infections, such as rheumatic fever or blood infections.
  • A heart attack or some types of heart disease.
  • High blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes.

How is heart valve disease diagnosed?

The doctor discusses the symptoms and may conduct a physical exam. The doctor may listen to the sounds the heart makes (murmur). The strength of the pulse in the arm or neck is also felt by the doctor. Other tests performed by the doctor include:
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG):
    • Quick and painless test procedure to measure the electrical activity of the heart.
    • Sensors (electrodes) are attached to the chest, wires connect the sensors to a machine, displaying or printing the results.
    • ECG helps to determine if blood flow to the heart has been reduced.
  • Chest X-ray:
    • To look at the structures in and around the chest and to help diagnose and monitor conditions such as pneumonia, heart failure, lung cancer, tuberculosis, sarcoidosis, and lung tissue scars (fibrosis)
  • Exercise stress test:
    • The heart rate while walking on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike is monitored. Because exercise makes the heart pump harder and faster than it does during most daily activities, an exercise stress test may show heart problems that are otherwise missed. If exercising is not possible, then medication mimicking the effect of exercise on heart is given.

What are the treatment options for heart valve disease?

Treatment for heart valve disease depends on the type of disease and its severity. Since heart valve disease is a lifelong condition, if untreated, it may lead to heart failure or other life-threatening conditions.
  • Lifestyle changes – To keep the heart as healthy as possible
    • Healthy eating and favoring foods low in trans fats, saturated fats, simple sugars, and sodium; rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
    • Don’t smoking.
    • Being active, ideally for 30 minutes or more a day. (Consult the doctor first)
    • Following everything to maintain a healthy weight.
    • In highly stressful conditions, learning effective ways to manage stress.
    • If present, controlling blood pressure and cholesterol is important as their presence increases the risk of heart disease.
    • Limit alcohol consumption
    • Practice good sleeping habits (get 7 to 9 hours of sleep daily)


Medicines are prescribed mainly to ease symptoms, prevent worsening of the heart valve disease, or treating other heart problems affecting the valves. Depending on the accompanying conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, treatment options may be suggested by the doctor such as:
  • Blood thinners such as aspirin and other anti-clotting medicines,
  • Blood pressure reducing medications.
  • Cholesterol reducing medications.
  • Antibiotics for infections that cause heart inflammation
  • Anti-arrhythmic medications such as beta-blockers to help regulate the heart’s rhythm.


Heart valve repair: The doctor may recommend heart valve repair surgery if a person presents any new symptoms. The most common procedures include:
  • Valvuloplasty
  • Annuloplasty
  • Stent placement
  • Implanting a device
  • Removing obstructions such as calcium deposits, clumps of bacteria, or tumors.
  • Repair supporting structures.

Heart valve replacement:

  • Often times, the heart valve can’t be repaired, and hence, the surgeon may suggest to replace the valve with a mechanical or biological heart valve.

What care should be taken for a person with heart valve disease?

Preventing future heart disease is vital when a person has a heart valve disease. Following tips may help in maintaining a healthy heart:

  • Don’t smoke.
  • Manage blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet including lot of vegetables and fruit and low in saturated and trans-fat.
  • Exercising regularly.
  • Keep complete knowledge about the type and extent of heart valve disease.
  • Info all doctors, dentist about the valve disease.
  • Consult the doctor in case of symptoms of an infection.
  • Take good care of teeth and gums.
  • Take advise of the doctor to consume antibiotics before you undergo any procedure that may cause bleeding.
  • Take medications regularly. Medicines that control the symptoms and help the heart pump blood more efficiently.
  • See the heart doctor for regular visits, even without symptoms. Follow up once a year or more often, depending on doctor’s advice


  1. Aluru JS, Barsouk A, Saginala K, Rawla P, Barsouk A. Valvular Heart Disease Epidemiology. Med Sci (Basel). 2022 Jun 15;10(2):32.
  2. Heart Valve Disease. Mayo Clinic. March 2024.
  3. What Is Heart Valve Disease? WebMD. March 2024.

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