Valvular Heart Disease
What are heart valves?
The heart has four valves. The purpose of these valves is to ensure that
blood flows in a forward direction. When the valves are open the blood
may flow forward. When the valves are closed blood is prevented from backwards.
What conditions may effect my heart valve?
Conditions that effect the heart valves may be either hereditary, that
is you are born with them, or acquired, that is they develop during life.
Any valve may be effected by a hereditary or acquired condition. Once
effected the valve(s) either become narrowed or stenotic restricting flow
through them or they become leaky or regurgitant resulting in excessive
back-flow of blood.
Narrowed or stenotic valvular lesions create a pressure-load on the chamber
behind the valve, which can cause straining, and thickening of that chamber.
Leaky or regurgitant valves cause a volume load on the chambers of the
heart, which can lead to progressive enlargement.
Most valvular conditions remain asymptomatic for many years as the heart
has great capacity to cope with both pressure and volume overload, but
ultimately they may result in progressive deterioration of function of
the heart and may require surgical intervention.