Heart valves can become leaky because of congenital defects, viruses or drug abuse. The leaking valve can lead to a variety of side effects. Valves that do not open or close properly can lead to too much or too little blood being pumped through the heart. Many people don't know that they have a leaky heart valve until the symptoms overtake them and they are forced to seek medical help.
The human heart has four valves--the mitral valve, the tricuspid valve, the pulmonic valve and the aortic valve--and each plays an essential role in the health of the heart. If one of the valves becomes diseased or impaired, it can cause the valve to become leaky, which can lead to complications, side effects and serious illness. Heart valve replacements are becoming more common. The Mayo Clinic website reports that their surgeons replace approximately 1,400 heart valves each year.
Significance of Side Effects
The American Heart Association reports that people with heart valve disease can have a reduced quality of life. The symptoms that a patient suffers may leave them fatigued, making doing normal activities that they once enjoyed more difficult. They may also have a reduction in pulmonary capabilities, which can lead to a need for oxygen and can cause a patient to become even more confined to the home. As symptoms worsen so does the patient's overall health.
Severity of Side Effects
Side effects from a leaking heart valve can be quite severe. According to the Mayo Clinic, these may include enlargement of the heart, fatigue, trouble breathing, coughing (when lying down or at night), swollen feet and ankles, heart murmur, excessive urination, chest pain or tightness, and feeling faint or dizzy.
Causes of Side Effects
Symptoms of leaky heart valves can be caused by the blood backing up or by too much blood coming into the chambers of the heart. The heart can become enlarged and pulmonary problems may present. If the leaky valve is severely defected, there may be difficulty with the heart pumping enough blood throughout the body. At this point, patients may experience even more side effects, such as swollen appendages or blue lips, fingers or toes.
Determining that the symptoms you are experiencing are caused by heart valve damage can be a lengthy process. Many different tests are used to make this determination. These tests can include chest X-ray, blood tests, electrocardiogram, holter monitor, echocardiogram, transesopheogeal echocardiogram, exercise tests, electrophysiology and cardiac catheterisation.
The Mayo Clinic reports that there are many different treatments offered for the symptoms of a leaky heart valve. Medications like Lasix (furosemide) may be used to help with swelling and breathing difficulties due to fluid retention. Other medications, such as anticoagulants, may be used to prevent blood clotting and the risk of strokes or embolisms. Drugs may also be used to try to treat the atrial fibrillation that sometimes results. In other situations, the symptoms may be so severe that surgery is necessary to repair or replace the original valve.