Aortic valve disease is a medical condition in which the valve present at the opening of the left lower chamber of the heart into the artery does not function properly. Consequently, the heart cannot effectively pump the pure blood to the body parts. This condition can be present from birth or can develop later due to other causes.
Aortic valve disease is of two types which include:
Aortic valve stenosis – This involves the thickening or complete fusion of the flaps of the valve. As a result, the valve becomes narrow, reducing the blood supply. This increases the pressure on the heart.
Aortic valve regurgitation – This involves an improper closure of the valve due to which the blood flows back into the left lower chamber of the heart. This causes overload of blood volume in the heart.
What are the symptoms of Aortic valve disease ?
Few symptoms are common for both the types of aortic valve disease such as chest pain with exercise which goes off with rest.
Other symptoms which are specific for aortic valve stenosis are fatigue, fluttering pulse, shortness of breath and swelling of ankles. Symptoms of aortic valve regurgitation are fainting with physical activity, palpitations of the heart and coughing.
What causes Aortic valve disease?
Aortic valve stenosis occurs usually in old age due to the deposition of calcium in the flaps of the valve. Also, people with rheumatic fever and scarlet fever are likely to develop aortic valve stenosis. These conditions leave scars on the surface of the valve which allows the increased deposition of calcium.
Aortic valve regurgitation is a congenital heart defect present from birth and does not show symptoms for several years. It can also occur due to the wear and tear of the valve over several years of functioning. The other conditions which can result in aortic valve regurgitation are infections of the valve such as endocarditis.
How do doctors Diagnose Aortic valve disease ?
To diagnose aortic valve disease, the doctor asks the patient for signs and symptoms, takes medical and medication history. Further tests such as electrocardiogram are performed to check the heart impulses, echocardiogram is done to get images of the heart valve, magnetic resonance imaging and chest x-rays are also performed. In special cases, a cardiac catheterization may be recommended to check for leaks in the heart valve.
What are the medical treatment for Aortic valve disease ?
Currently there is no medication to completely cure the disease. However, treatments are available to lower the effects of the disease. Treatment is chosen based on the type and severity of the disease.
- If the condition is not serious, then suggestions will be provided to adopt healthy life-style habits. Also, medications will be given to manage the symptoms and reduce the risk of developing complications.
- Drugs such as calcium channel blockers and beta blockers are prescribed to reduce chest pain. Statins may be given to lower the cholesterol levels in blood.
- Surgical repair of the valve may be necessary in severe cases.
- Most effective aortic valve surgery involves the replacement of the valve. For this purpose, a healthy valve is taken from a donor and used. Mechanical valves made of metal are also used but they have the risk of developing blood clots and needs additional drugs such as anticoagulants.
- Valvuloplasty is the repair of the damaged valve which does not need further medications. In children a balloon valvuloplasty is performed to stretch open the valve by inserting a balloon into the valve and inflating it.
Complications of Aortic valve disease
Aortic valve disease can result in complications such as heart failure or pulmonary edema (a condition of the lungs) if it is not treated.
Aortic valve disease prevention is possible through the below measures:
- Avoiding the attack of scarlet fever and rheumatic fever by immediately consulting a doctor
- Managing the conditions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol to prevent the risk of developing aortic valve disease
- Ensuring good dental hygiene to prevent infections such as endocarditis
Certain lifestyle changes can help to improve the condition and are as follows:
- Quitting smoking and tobacco use
- Performing regular physical activities
- Following a healthy diet
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Avoiding stress