As many as 5 million Americans have been diagnosed with valve disease. Valve disease involves damage to one or more of the heart’s valves and while some types are not serious, others can lead to major complications—including death.
Most valve diseases involve a damaged valve that disrupts blood flow by not opening or closing properly. Regurgitation is when a valve does not fully close and allows blood to leak backwards. It is also commonly called insufficiency, or a leaky valve. Stenosis is when a valve does not fully open to allow enough blood to flow through. It is also commonly called a sticky, narrowed, or stiff valve. Each of four valves can have regurgitation or stenosis (sometimes both), although the aortic and mitral valves are the most likely to be damaged.
When valve damage reduces blood flow, the heart has to work harder and the body gets less oxygen—leading to a number of symptoms. However, people with valve disease do not always have symptoms, even if their disease is severe. For these people, a heart murmur is the most important clue. Others may have symptoms with less severe disease. The only way to really know is to be diagnosed by a doctor, so see yours right away if you are told you have a murmur or you are experiencing any of these:
- Shortness of breath
- Weakness or dizziness
- Pain, tightness, or discomfort in the chest
- Fainting or feeling faint
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Decrease in exercise capacity
- Swollen abdomen or ankles and feet
Many of these symptoms will only happen during activity, but as the disease gets worse they may also happen while resting.
Valve defects can be there at birth or develop from damage later in life. Fortunately, valve disease can usually be successfully treated with valve repair or replacement in patients of all ages. If you have been diagnosed with valve disease, have a heart murmur, or think you may be experiencing symptoms, explore our site to learn about causes, symptoms, surgery, and more—and be sure to talk with your health care professional.
Heart Valve Disease in Women
Each year, as many as 5 million Americans are diagnosed with heart valve disease–a cardiovascular condition that affects men and…
Women With Valve Disease
Part of a workshop kit for women with valve disease, this brochure gives a broad overview of valve disease in…
Heart Valve Disease: Patient Information
This brochure from the Alliance for Aging Research includes information on the basics of valve disease—what it is, how you…
About Valve Disease: Talking with Your Doctor
This quick guide from the Alliance for Aging Research, offers tips on talking with your doctor or health care professional…
Valve Disease Quiz: How much do you know?
As many as 5 million Americans are diagnosed with valve disease each year. Valve diseases involve damage to one or…
Aortic Stenosis in Seniors Explained
This short “pocket film” from the Alliance for Aging Research gives a quick look at aortic stenosis—what it means to…
Aortic Stenosis Quiz: Are you at risk?
Take this quiz to find out if you’re at risk for aortic stenosis, plus learn more about the disease and…
Aortic Stenosis Quiz: After your diagnosis
If you have been diagnosed with aortic stenosis, take this quiz to learn more about the disease and its treatment. …
Aortic Stenosis: Facts About a Heart Valve Disease
This brochure from the Alliance for Aging Research is designed for people who have been diagnosed with aortic stenosis or…