Heart & Vascular Institute
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Heart valve disease

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Expert advice on whether your murmur could indicate a heart valve problem

At Novant Health, our heart and vascular experts can help you determine if your murmur or other heart symptoms indicate a heart valve problem. When your heart valves do not function correctly, it can lead to heart valve disease. Our team of providers can help you identify lifestyle changes you need to make to better manage this disease. If your faulty heart valve needs to be repaired or replaced, our team of heart surgeons will use the latest technology to get your valves functioning again.

Learn more about some of the most common heart valve problems and symptoms.

Valvular stenosis occurs when a valve does not open properly because the opening is narrowed, or stenotic. The tissues forming the valve openings become stiffer, narrowing the valve opening which reduces the amount of blood that can flow through it. This causes the heart to pump harder and the rest of the body may not receive adequate blood flow.

Valvular regurgitation occurs when heart valves do not close completely. Also referred to as leaky valve or regurgitant flow, this condition causes blood to leak backwards across the valve after it fails to close tightly enough. This can cause fatigue, shortness of breath and the heart to work harder to circulate blood through the body.

 Aortic valve stenosis

Aortic stenosis is one of the most common and most serious valve disease problems affecting the aortic valve. Aortic stenosis is a narrowing or tightening of the aortic valve opening. This tightening of the valve opening restricts the blood flow from the left ventricle to the aorta and can affect the pressure in the left atrium. Aortic stenosis can be caused by congenital issues but is commonly developed over time due to aging and scarring from damage to the valve. Valve repair or replacement may be necessary to correct this issue.

Symptoms of aortic stenosis

Many people with aortic stenosis may not experience any of the following symptoms until the blood flow becomes severely restricted:

  • Breathlessness
  • Chest pain (angina), pressure or tightness
  • Fainting
  • Palpitations or a feeling pounding or noticeable heartbeats
  • Reduced ability to do normal activities requiring mild exertion
  • Heart murmur

 Mitral valve stenosis

Mitral valve stenosis is a narrowing, or tightening, of the mitral valve. This causes reduced blood flow from the left atrium of the heart to the left ventricle. The pressure and volume build up from this blood remaining in the left atrium can eventually cause an enlarged left atrium as well as fluid buildup in the lungs. Mitral valve stenosis is most commonly caused by rheumatic fever, which is very rare in the United States thanks to effective use of antibiotics.

Learn more about treatment options offered by Novant Health for your heart valve condition or find a provider near you.

 Aortic valve regurgitation

Aortic valve regurgitation is a condition that occurs when the aortic valve leaks each time the left ventricle relaxes, causing the blood to flow backwards over the aorta into the ventricle. This can cause increased pressure in the heart, stretching and thickening of the ventricle wall or bulges/weak spots in the aorta.

Symptoms of aortic valve regurgitation

Many people with mild aortic valve regurgitation may notice few to little symptoms. However, as the condition progresses and becomes more severe, you may notice:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty breathing when lying down

 Symptoms of mitral valve regurgitation

Most people with chronic mitral valve regurgitation do not notice any symptoms for a long time and people with mild or moderate mitral regurgitation often do not have any symptoms as well. Symptoms generally may begin if the regurgitation becomes more severe and include:

  • Shortness of breath with exertion or when lying flat
  • Fatigue
  • Reduced ability to exercise
  • Unpleasant awareness of your heartbeat
  • Swelling in your legs, abdomen, and the veins in your neck
  • Chest pain

 Mitral valve prolapse

The mitral valve helps control blood flow through the heart. Mitral valve prolapse, also known as click-murmur syndrome or floppy valve syndrome, occurs when two valve flaps of the mitral valve do not close smoothly, but instead bulge upward into the heart’s left upper chamber (the left atrium) during a heartbeat.

Risk factors for mitral valve prolapse

Some factors that increase the risk of mitral valve prolapse include:

  • Graves disease (a condition that affects the thyroid gland)
  • Certain connective tissue disorders, such as Marfan syndrome
  • Scoliosis and other skeletal problems
  • Some types of muscular dystrophy

Symptoms of mitral valve prolapse

Symptoms of mitral valve prolapse may depend on the degree of the prolapse present, but keep in mind that you may not always show symptoms of mitral valve prolapse. The most common signs of this condition include:

  • Palpitations or fast, irregular heartbeats
  • Chest pain
  • Cough
  • Headaches
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Dizziness

Learn more about treatment options offered by Novant Health for your heart valve condition or find a provider near you.

Mitral valve regurgitation is a condition that occurs when blood leaks backwards through the mitral valve with each heartbeat. This condition causes the heart to work harder than it usually should to pump blood throughout the body. If the regurgitation is severe, increased pressure may cause a fluid build-up in the lungs. The most common cause of mitral valve regurgitation is mitral valve prolapse which occurs when extra tissue in the valve keeps it from closing tightly.

Contact a Novant Health provider today to learn more about these conditions and how our heart and vascular experts can get your valve functioning properly.