Valvular Heart Disease

Valvular Heart Disease happens when the valves of the heart do not open and close as they should.


The flow of blood is affected when the valves don’t close totally.  Blood flow backward all the way through the valve in a manner called regurgitation. On the other hand, if the valves don’t have the ability to open fully, valve stenosis occurs. The blood flow throughout the valves is diminished.

What is the Function of the Heart Valves?

The heart is composed of four chambers with two ventricles or lower chambers and two atria or upper chambers.  Within these chambers, valves can be seen and it serves as the passage way of blood towards the different chambers of the heart. The valves prevent the back flow of blood. They are located on each rim of the ventricles and serves as flaps. It acts as a one way inlet were blood passes through on one side of the ventricle and as a one way vent of blood on the other area of the ventricle. There are valves that have three flaps and others have two.

There are four types of heart valves. The tricuspid valve has three flaps that are located amidst of the right ventricle and the right atrium.  The Pulmonary valve is positioned amid the pulmonary artery and right ventricle. It is responsible for regulating  the rhythm of the blood flow to the pulmonary system. The third one is the mitral valve that has two flaps and is located between the left ventricle and left atrium. It is also called as the bicuspid valve. Lastly, the aortic valve is situated between the aorta and left ventricle, it prevents the backflow of blood form the aorta to the left ventricle.

During the contraction and relaxation of the heart muscles, the heart valves open and shut, allowing the flow of blood into the ventricles and atrium at interchanging events. There is a step by step correlation with the blood flow and the heart’s structures. Its starts after the left ventricles contracts, closing the aortic valve and opening of the mitral valve to allow the blood to flow into the left ventricle from the left atrium. Then during the contraction of the left atrium, additional blood flows to the left ventricle. When the contraction phase of the left ventricle is completed, the closure of the mitral valve and the opening of aortic valve follow so that the blood can flow into the aorta.

What is the Valvular Heart Disease?

Valvular Heart Disease can involve two malfunctions of the heart valves as mentioned earlier. Regurgitation happens when a  valve isn’t able to completely close  causing the flow of the blood to run backwards instead of moving forward.  This can be possible if one or two of the valves develop floppy flaps that don’t shut tightly and is termed as valve prolapse.

Stenosis happens when the valves opening develop into a narrow outlet or doesn’t form properly. It inhibits the capacity of the heart to propel blood to its chambers or to blood vessels.  This requires the heart to work harder to be able to pump blood through a stenotic valve. The valve in this condition is stiff, thick and the flaps may fuse together. Another form of Valvular Heart Disease can be present during birth or congenital heart disease wherein the valves may form improperly.

These malfunctions can occur at the same time. Once the valves of the heart fail to close and open the way it should be, the heart’s condition could be serious. It may hamper the ability of the heart to adequately supply blood to the entire body in order for it to carry out its normal functions.

What are the Causes of Heart Valve Disease?

This can be present at birth (congenital anomaly) or can be attained during one’s life. In some instances, the cause of this condition is unknown.

Congenital valve disorders usually affect the pulmonic and aortic valves. The valve’s leaflets or flaps can be malformed, wrongly sized or not properly fastened to the annulus. Bicuspid aortic valve disease affects the aortic valve and is congenital in nature. Instead of having three cusps or leaflets, it only has two which makes the valve stiff and leaky.

Acquired valve disease involves a problem that develops within the valves that were formed normally. It includes structure changes during various diseases and infections consist by Endocarditis and Rheumatic Fever.

Rheumatic Fever traces its origin to an untreated sore throat infection. The first infection typically occurs in children, but the heart valve disease may not be seen until around 20-40 years afterwards. At this time, the valves of the heart may be inflamed and leaflets can be rigid, scarred, shortened and thickened.

Endocarditis come about when bacteria come into the bloodstream and attacks the valves of the heart causing holes and growths in the valves.

The other causes of Valvular Heart Disease include heart attack, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathy, syphilis and hypertension. Moreover, it can originate from connective tissue disease and aortic aneurysms. The less frequent cause of Heart Valve Disease composes of tumors, radiation and drugs.

Other Circulatory System Diseases, Symptoms and Diagnosis