Valvular Heart Disease


Valvular heart disease involves damage of one or more of the four valves of the heart (the aortic and mitral valves on the left and the pulmonary and tricuspid valves on the right). The mitral and aortic valves are the ones which are most frequently affected by valvular heart disease. Blood flows in normal valves with proper force in the proper direction at the proper time whereas in case of valvular heart disease, the valves become too narrow and hardened (stenotic) to open fully, or are unable to close completely (incompetent). As a result, a stenotic valve forces blood to back up in the adjacent heart chamber, while an incompetent valve allows blood to leak back into the chamber it previously existed. To compensate this poor pumping action, the heart muscle enlarges and thickens, thereby losing its elasticity and efficiency. The main factors for these conditions are largely as a consequence of aging, but may also be the result of congenital abnormalities or specific disease including rheumatic heart disease and pregnancy.



 


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