A leaky heart valve is essentially a valve of the heart that doesn't close as normal, causing blood to leak or regurgitate backwards. Often referred to as a "regurgitant" valve, this condition can be either congenital or acquired, meaning that the leaky valve may be a problem with which you were born or something you've developed over time, due to a disease or illness like coronary artery disease, endocarditis, high blood pressure, heart attack and even syphilis. When this condition manifests, there are certain symptoms considered "hallmarks" of the condition.
As with many conditions that can affect the body, it is possible for a leaky heart valve to cause no symptoms at all. In this situation, the leakage or regurgitation has developed over a prolonged period of time, allowing your heart to compensate for the discrepancy. It isn't until the actual condition of the valve vastly degenerates or the defect is detected by a medical professional that a diagnosis is made.
One of the more common symptoms of a leaky heart valve is problems involving respiration. In both sudden and more severe valvular defects, you may begin to notice an abnormal shortness of breath. Usually, this sensation of windedness manifests during times of physical activity. Even simply walking from one end of a room to the other can trigger this symptom, but you may also experience this problem when you lie on your back.
Another fairly common symptom of a regurgitant valve is heart palpitations. With this symptom, your heart actually begins to beat more rapidly than normal. It may also begin to skip beats or beat unevenly. According to the Cleveland Clinic, a "flip-flopping" sensation within your chest can often be felt as well.
Along with these heart palpitations, a diseased valve may also cause you some pain or discomfort within your chest. More commonly felt as an unexplained weight or tightness within this region of the body, the sensation can be triggered by an everyday activity (much like respiratory problems) or even a change in temperature.
It is also possible for a leaky heart valve to cause some swelling within your body. But this swelling isn't actually experienced within your chest and lungs. Instead, this retention of fluid takes place in your abdominal region as well as your feet and ankles.
Due to the affect the leaky valve has on the oxygen levels of your heart and body, you may also begin to experience some level of weakness or fatigue. This may cause you to suffer from dizziness, lightheadedness or even a loss in consciousness.
Surprisingly, a regurgitant valve can cause you to experience a sudden fluctuation in weight. Typically, this occurs within your trunk and may cause clothes to fit more tightly than normal.
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