What Causes Heart Valves to Fail?

What Causes Heart Valves to Fail?

According to the latest estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, valvular heart disease affects about 5 million individuals in the United States.

It may not receive the same media attention as artery-clogging atherosclerosis and other potentially life-threatening heart ailments. Notably, however, the health ramifications of valve failure related to untreated heart valve disease are just as serious.  

The team at Premier Cardiology Consultants, with an office in New Hyde Park, Long Island, New York, and three in Queens, explains the effects of faulty heart valves and what causes them to fail.

What do heart valves do?

Your heart contains two upper chambers (atria) and two lower chambers (ventricles) separated by valves, one per chamber. Each valve has flap-like structures (leaflets) that open and close regularly to help keep blood flowing in the right direction as it moves through your heart.

The four heart valves are called the:

Any valve can be affected by disease, but damage leading to failure is most common in the mitral valve.

What causes heart valve disease?

Heart valve disease prevents your valves from opening and closing normally, which may cause:

Regurgitation

This occurs when valve flaps don't close properly and blood leaks backward into the chamber it just exited.

Stenosis

Often related to aging, stenosis causes the valve flaps to thicken and sometimes fuse together, which reduces blood flow through the valve.

Atresia

Typically noted shortly after birth or during early childhood, atresia occurs when the affected valve doesn’t fully form.

When left untreated, a diseased or damaged heart valve can eventually fail and may cause serious complications, including:

Factors that increase your risk of developing heart valve disease include:

Ironically, the American Heart Association notes that a recent rise in heart valve disease may be traced to increased life expectancy. Longer life spans associated with improved health care essentially give heart valves time to wear out.

Treating heart valve failure

Effective treatment depends on the severity of your symptoms and the extent of valve damage noted on an echocardiogram or other diagnostic studies.

Should the affected valves show significant dysfunction, your cardiologist may recommend surgery to repair the damage. When necessary, the entire valve can be replaced with a mechanical valve or one made from donor tissue.  

For more information about heart valve failure and its implications for your overall health, schedule an evaluation at Premier Cardiology Consultants today.

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