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Understanding the Many Faces of Valvular Disease

Your heart is a complex organ that acts as the main hub and power source for your circulatory system. To ensure that blood flows through the four chambers of your heart correctly, your heart is equipped with valves that open and shut with each heartbeat. With valvular disease, the flow of blood is compromised, which may make you more prone to serious conditions like heart disease and stroke.

At Advanced Cardiovascular Specialists, our team is trained to identify functional problems in your heart, including valvular disease, so that we can take the necessary steps to keep your heart functioning as it should. 

To give you an idea of what we’re up against when it comes to valvular disease, here’s a look at some of the more common types of valve issues.

Understanding valve function

Your heart is made up of four chambers and four valves that direct the blood through each chamber. To start, oxygen-depleted blood enters your right atrium, where it’s sent to your right ventricle through your tricuspid valve. From your right ventricle, the blood passes through your pulmonary valve and into your lungs where it picks up oxygen.

From there, the blood re-enters your heart at your left atrium where it’s sent through your mitral valve to your left ventricle. Once in your left ventricle, your blood makes its exit through your aortic valve and into your body for circulation.

Under normal circumstances, each of these valves opens and closes with every heartbeat to keep your blood flowing in the right direction.

When one or more of these valves malfunction, it disrupts the flow of blood through your heart and puts you more at risk for developing serious heart conditions like arrhythmia, stroke, and heart disease.

Common valvular diseases

Valvular disease is a catch-all term for any problem that affects the function of one of the four valves in your heart, which include:

Stenosis

Stenosis is a narrowing of a passageway, and when it occurs in your valve, it can reduce the amount of blood that’s able to pass through.

Regurgitation

The primary role of your valve is to shut off so that blood doesn’t flow backward. With regurgitation, that’s exactly what happens — blood flows back into the chamber it was trying to exit.

Prolapse

This condition typically develops in your mitral valve and occurs when the valve flaps don’t close seamlessly, allowing blood to flow backward.

Artresis

This condition describes a poorly formed valve or a valve that’s missing altogether.

Causes of valvular disease

There are many conditions that can lead to valvular disease, but congenital issues and age lead the charge. For example, artresis is typically a problem you’re born with while mitral valve prolapse is usually the result of degenerative valve disease caused by aging. Aging can also lead to calcification in your valves, which causes stenosis.

Less commonly, infections or pre-existing conditions like rheumatic fever can lead to valvular disease.

Treating valvular disease

You may not notice the effects of your valvular disease as the first sign is usually a heart murmur that your doctor discovers. From there, we perform testing to locate the problem and then devise an appropriate treatment plan, which ranges from blood-thinning medications to valve replacement.

If you’d like to learn more about valvular disease and your risks, please contact one of our three locations in Watsonville, Mountain View, or Monterey, California.

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