Heart valve disease affects the valves that make sure blood flows correctly through the heart and to the rest of the body.
The heart has four valves that open and close with each heartbeat, helping to regulate how blood moves through the heart. A problem with one of these valves can be caused by birth defects, age-related changes, infections or other conditions.
Three kinds of problems can affect heart valves:
The main sign of heart valve disease is a heart murmur—an extra or unusual sound during a heartbeat that can be detected when your physician listens to your heart using a stethoscope.
Some people with heart valve disease don’t experience any symptoms until later in life after the disease has progressed. Symptoms may include:
Your doctor may hear a heart murmur when listening to your heartbeat with a stethoscope. To diagnose heart valve disease, your doctor will give you a physical exam and one or more of the following tests:
Lifestyle changes and medicine may help manage the symptoms of a heart valve problem. Improving your diet, lowering your blood pressure, quitting smoking, and limiting strenuous exercise may help. Your doctor may also prescribe medication to treat heart failure, lower your blood pressure, prevent irregular heartbeats, or thin your blood to prevent clots.
In some cases, a faulty valve may need to be repaired or replaced with surgery. These surgeries can include: