What is the treatment?
What is it?
Heart valves are "doors" that control the flow of blood between the different chambers or parts of the heart.
In valvular heart disease, one or more of the heart valves become damaged and cannot function properly. Different diseases affect different valves. Certain diseases tend to affect one heart valve more than the others. The valves on the left side of the heart (aortic and mitral valves) are more commonly affected than those in the right side of the heart (pulmonary and tricuspid valves).
Valve problems may be either congenital (inborn) or acquired (cause which occurred later in life).
There are a generally two kinds of Valvular Heart Disease,Valvular stenosis: It takes place when the opening for a valve is smaller than it should be due to stiffening, thickening, narrowing, blockage or fusion of the valve. As such, this causes the interference of the blood flowing through the valves.
Valvular insufficiency or Valvular Regurgitation: This occurs when the heart's valve is unable to close as tightly as it needs to, which results in blood leaking back in the wrong direction.
What are the symptoms?
Patients will start experiencing symptoms at different ages depending on the disease that they have. This can range from the very young to the very old.
In general, valves can become "floppy" and allow blood to flow backwards or become "tight" thereby narrowing the space through which the blood can flow forward. There can also be a mixture of both.
In the early stage, you may have no symptoms and feel alright even if your valve is badly damaged. The symptoms may appear later and become progressively worse.
Common symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath on exertion
- Fatigue or tiredness
- Feeling of faintness
- Irregular heart beats
- Swelling of the ankles
If you experience these symptoms, you should see your family doctor who will take a detailed history, do a thorough physical examination and order the necessary tests.
Your doctor may refer you to a cardiologist for further evaluation. The cardiologist may do an echocardiogram, a painless test using ultrasound, to help him look at your heart and its different structures. This will help your doctor to understand your condition and be able to make an accurate diagnosis and give the correct treatment.
What is the treatment?
Depending on what is found, you may be:
- Given medications and be followed up regularly or
- Referred to an interventional cardiologist or
- Referred to a cardiac surgeon
The interventional cardiologist is a cardiologist who carries out procedures on the heart percutaneously (through the skin methods).
The cardiac surgeon will:
- Explain why surgery may be the best option for your condition
- Explain the different ways of treating the valves
- Explain the risks, benefits and possible complications
- Describe the surgical procedure
- Explain the post operative care
- Answer your questions and clarify your doubts
- Help you reach a decision and set a date for the surgery
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