The symptomatology of valvular heart disease may range from asymptomatic (no symptoms) to severe, depending on the current heart condition. Symptoms may not necessarily correlate with the severity of the disease. This is because minor heart valve problems may adopt into a long term issue and suddenly give way to failure instantaneously. At this point, symptoms are an emergency and it is crucial to treat as soon as possible for the goal of an optimal outcome. The following symptoms are common in valvular heart disease.
- Shortness of breath
- Wheezing (whistling sound during inhalation)
- Edema (accumulation of fluid) of the hands, foot and abdomen
- Chest pain and palpitations
- Fever (as with infection)
- Fainting and dizziness
- Rapid weight gain (due to water retention)
Diagnosis of Valvular Heart Disease
During routine visits to the physician where you may have a Q and A session, chest auscultation of a VHD individual often presents as a murmur. This may prompt the attending physician to refer you for the following possible tests.
Electrocardiography (ECG/EKG) – The procedure that involves the placing of an electrode on the chest and determines the direction of heart’s electrical discharges. One can determine the rhythm and speed of the heart and timing of impulse as it passes through the different parts of the heart.
Cardiac Stress Test – This is also known as the treadmill test in which the heart rate, blood pressure and ECG readings are continually monitored while the individual is performing specific exercises. The Stress test detects valvular insufficiency effectively.
Echocardiography – Utilizes sound waves to elucidate the image of the heart real time. It can show the size and the shape of the heart, the behavior and condition of the valves, show the presence of septal defects and the pattern of blood flow through it. Echocardiography can compute the ejection fraction of the heart (amount of blood pumped out of the heart during full contraction). Stenotic valves, meaning those that are too narrow, will show low ejection fraction.
Chest X-ray – Chest X-rays uses ionizing radiation to take pictures of the inside of the lungs. It may reveal enlargement of the heart and detect any signs pulmonary congestion which are commonly seen with an incompetent pulmonary valve.
Cardiac Catheterization – This is an invasive procedure whereby a flexible plastic tube is inserted in a big vessel of the thigh, arm or neck, and threaded to the heart. Cardiac catheters may measure irregular pressure in between the valves (denoting stenosis) and detect blood backflows (denoting regurgitation) in between valves.
Other Possible Related Conditions?
Conditions like rheumatic fever may adversely affect a previously healthy valve. One must also understand that aging may cause dystrophic changes in the heart valves. Bacterial endocarditis and Atherosclerosis may cause valvular damage. Individuals exposed to radiation therapy may inadvertently have valvular problems in the long run. Individuals suffering in any way due to any of these conditions, past or present, are wise to bring this information to the attention of their cardiologist and all other treating physicians which may allow a means for the physicians to take precautions against risks.
Next Visit, Valvular Heart Disease Treatments.
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