Heart Valve Defects: A Basic Comparison of Valvular Heart Diseases

Heart Valve Defects: A Basic Comparison of Valvular Heart Diseases
Page content

About Valvular Heart Diseases

The heart is composed of four chambers, namely the two atria and the two ventricles. Between these chambers are valves or thin flaps of tissue which help regulate blood flow in the heart. These four valves, the mitral valve, the tricuspid valve, the pulmonary valve, and aortic valve, allow blood to move in one direction the moment it enters the heart until it exits for distribution throughout the body. When these heart valves become narrow or hardened due to some defects, it can greatly affect the flow of blood within the heart and can often lead to the manifestation of different symptoms.

Here is a basic comparison of valvular heart diseases.

Mitral Valve Prolapse

The mitral valve is the one that separates the atrium and ventricle found on the heart’s left side. A mitral valve prolapse is a heart disorder that occurs when the mitral valve fails to properly close. It is also called Barlow syndrome. It is said that about 1 out of 10 individuals have some form of mitral valve prolapse, although the condition does not usually cause any harm to an individual. This condition is genetically passed on in families. It is also common among thin women who have disorders like chest wall deformities and scoliosis. Most cases are asymptomatic, but some may present with palpitation, cough, chest pain, fatigue and shortness of breath especially when lying down flat.

Mitral Stenosis

When the mitral valve fails to fully open and limits the circulation of blood, this is called mitral valve stenosis. In adults, this condition is commonly seen in those who have suffered from rheumatic fever, and can even occur 10 years after the rheumatic fever happened. Radiation exposure, buildup of calcium around the mitral valve, and certain medications may also contribute to mitral valve stenosis. Some children may also be born with this condition. Symptoms range from chest discomfort during activities to bloody cough, trouble breathing, swelling of the lower limbs, palpitations, and respiratory infections like bronchitis.

Aortic Insufficiency

This disease is characterized by the weakening of the aortic valve, preventing it from closing tightly. The result is backward blood flow from the aorta into the left ventricle. Several risk factors such as rheumatic fever and congenital valve problems have been associated with this disorder. It can also be due to other conditions like high blood pressure, syphilis and systemic lupus. It is prevalent among men aged 30 to 60 years old. It has symptoms like fainting, weakness, fatigue, chest pains, difficulty breathing and palpitations.

Tricuspid Regurgitation

This condition is characterized by the tricuspid valve not closing properly, resulting in blood flowing backward or leaking into the right atrium whenever the right ventricle contracts. This is a rare condition, affecting only about four out of 100,000 individuals. Symptoms include fatigue, sweating, weakness, and swollen feet and ankles.

Pulmonary Valve Stenosis

Pulmonary valve stenosis occurs when the valve leading to the pulmonary artery is blocked. This condition affects about one out of 10 people with congenital heart ailments. It can also happen as a result of other conditions such as endocarditis and rheumatic fever. Symptoms of this condition include chest pains, fainting, fatigue, and shortness of breath. In some unfortunate instances, the person may die suddenly.

This was a basic comparison of valvular heart diseases commonly seen in medical practice. There are also cases where a person can have multivalvular heart disease and present with more than one defective valve in the heart.


John Hopkins Medicine: Valvular Heart Disease

MedicineNet.com: Heart Disease: Heart Valve Disease

Image Credit / Wikimedia Commons / Yaddah