Heart Valve Disease (cont.)
In this Article
How Are Valve Diseases Diagnosed?
Your heart doctor can tell if you have valve disease by talking to you about your symptoms, performing a physical exam, and giving you other tests.
During a physical exam, your doctor will listen to your heart to hear the sounds the heart makes as the valves open and close. A murmur is a swishing sound made by blood flowing through a stenotic or leaky valve. Your doctor can also tell if your heart is enlarged or if your heart rhythm is irregular.
The doctor will listen to your lungs to hear if you are retaining fluid in your lungs, which shows your heart is not able to pump as well as it should.
By examining your body, the doctor can find clues about your circulation and the functioning of your other organs.
After the physical exam, the doctor may order diagnostic tests. These may include:
By looking at the results, repeated over time, your doctor can also see the progress of your valve disease. This will help him or her make decisions about your treatment.
How Is Heart Valve Disease Treated?
Treatment for heart valve disease depends on the type and severity of valve disease. There are three goals of treatment for heart valve disease: protecting your valve from further damage; lessening symptoms; and repairing or replacing valves.
Protecting your valve from further damage.
If you have valve disease, you are at risk for developing endocarditis, a serious condition. People who have mitral valve prolapse without thickening or regurgitation/leaking are not at risk of developing endocarditis.
You are still at risk for endocarditis, even if your valve is repaired or replaced through surgery. To protect yourself:
Medications. You may be prescribed medications to treat your symptoms and to lessen the chance of further valve damage. Some medications may be stopped after you have had valve surgery to correct your problem. Other medications may need to be taken all your life. Medications may include:
Follow your doctor's orders when taking medications. Know the names of your medications, what they are for, and how often to take them.
Surgery and Other Procedures. The diagnostic tests your heart doctor orders help to identify the location, type, and extent of your valve disease. The results of these tests, the structure of your heart, your age, and your lifestyle will help your cardiologist (heart doctor), surgeon, and you decide what type of procedure will be best for you.
Surgical options include heart valve repair or replacement. Valves can be repaired or replaced with traditional heart valve surgery or a minimally invasive heart valve surgical procedure. Heart valves may also be repaired by other procedures such as percutaneous balloon valvotomy.