If you or one of your loved ones is diagnosed with valvular heart disease, it’s important to feel informed about what exactly the condition is, and what effect it is likely to have on your life.
Here is a quick guide to valvular heart disease, and what you can expect if either you or a member of your family is suffering from it.
Valvular Heart Disease: What is it?
Quite simply, the term ‘valvular’ refers to the valves of the heart. If you have valvular heart disease, it means that you have some sort of damage or defect to one of the valves within your heart.
The function of the valves is to make sure that blood flows correctly around your body, at the right rate and in the right direction. If you have valvular heart disease, your valves may become too narrow to allow blood to flow properly, or may even close completely. This will cause the heart to pump poorly, and in turn, the muscles in your heart will attempt to compensate for this by thickening, which actually decreases their efficiency. This can cause significant health problems, and in some cases, can lead to increased risk of pulmonary embolism or stroke.
What are the Symptoms?
Symptoms vary dramatically from individual to individual. If your condition is only mild, then you may have no symptoms at all, and the condition might remain undetected for a long period of time. In the worst cases, the disease can cause heart failure.
Likewise, symptoms can occur suddenly, or take a significant time to develop. Typical symptoms include fatigue, dizziness and shortness of breath (particularly after physical exertion), swelling in the extremities or around the abdomen, and palpitations. Occasionally, you may also notice that you gain weight rapidly, or even develop a fever.
Why Have you Got Valvular Heart Disease?
As with many heart conditions, there are a variety of reasons as to why you may have developed valvular heart disease. Reasons include:
Age. Heart tissue naturally deteriorates with age.
Blood pressure. High blood pressure can cause damage to the valves, particularly the aortic valve.
Drugs. Certain medication, such as Methysergide, have been linked to valvular heart disease.
Heart attack. A heart attack can damage the muscles surrounding the valves.
Concerned that You May Have Valvular Heart Disease? What Action to Take
If you experience any of the symptoms listed above, then it’s important to speak to a medical expert as soon as possible. They are likely to refer you for tests at a specialist clinic, such as an echocardiogram or nuclear stress test. After conducting a thorough assessment of your heart, you’ll then be advised as to what action to take to treat the condition.
In severe cases, you may be referred for heart surgery, in other cases, you may need to take no action at all.
Worried About the Health of Your Heart?
If you’re concerned about any symptoms you may be experiencing, then it’s important to book an appointment with a medical clinic with a specialism in heart conditions as soon as possible.