What is Valve Disease?

Your heart has four valves

  • Mitral valve (left side)
  • Aortic valve (left side)
  • Tricuspid valve (right side)
  • Pulmonary valve (right side)

Normally, these valves open to let blood flow through or out of your heart, and then shut to keep it from flowing backward. But sometimes they don’t work properly and the following may occur:

  • Blood can leak back through the valve in the wrong direction, which is called regurgitation.
  • The valve doesn’t open enough, which blocks blood flow, and this is referred to as stenosis (narrowing of the valve). Aortic stenosis is typically a disease of the elderly, as a buildup of calcium on heart valve leaflets occurs as one gets older.
  • Atresia can occur if a heart valve lacks an opening for blood to pass through.

The mitral and tricuspid valves control blood flow between the ventricles and the atria. The pulmonary valve controls blood flow from the heart to the lungs and the aortic valve controls blood flow between the heart and the aorta, and ultimately the rest of the body. The mitral and aortic valves are most frequently affected by valvular heart disease due to the high pressure they experience.

Heart valve disease can make your heart work harder and affect its ability to pump blood. If not treated, advanced heart valve disease can cause heart failure, stroke, blood clots, or sudden death due to sudden cardiac arrest. You can be born with heart valve disease or develop it later in life.

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