What Causes Leaky Valves
Any one of the four valves in the heart can leak or a combination of valves can leak. One of the valves typically has three flaps, and some people are born with only two flaps, which results in a leaking valve. Trauma can cause valves to leak, as can infection of the heart valve or damage from rheumatic fever. High blood pressure, pulmonary hypertension, and an enlarged heart can also cause leaking valves. Some heart surgeries to correct heart defects in children may result in leaking valves later in life.
What Causes Heart Valve Damage
The causes of heart valve damage vary depending on the type of disease present, and may include the following:
Changes in the heart valve structure due to aging
Coronary artery disease and heart attack
Heart valve infection
The mitral and aortic valves are most often affected by heart valve disease. Some of the more common heart valve diseases include:
How Is A Leaky Heart Valve Diagnosed
A doctor usually diagnoses a leaky heart valve by:
- Listening to the heart with a stethoscope for abnormal sounds such as a heart murmur
- Looking at the results of a heart ultrasound, also called an echocardiogram
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Acute Vs Chronic Aortic Regurgitation
Acute aortic regurgitation is where there is a sudden event that causes the leak to happen. This is much less common than chronic aortic regurgitation that occurs and progresses over a long time typically. Acute aortic regurgitation, if it is severe, is not handled well. It can lead to congestive heart failure and shock since there is not enough blood going forward to the body. In chronic aortic regurgitation the leak progresses slowly over time and the heart has time to adapt, and so symptoms dont typically develop for a long time.
Reason : When + What You Eat Matters
Its no secret that heart failure can steal your appetite. The food choices you make, as well as your eating habits, can affect your energy level and quality of life.
Here, preventive cardiology dietitian , offers 8 tips for adopting a heart-healthy diet:
This article was adapted from Cleveland Clinic Heart Advisor.
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Leaking Heart Valve Life Expectancy
Having a leaking heart valve is a lifelong condition. Some patients may never experience symptoms from the condition, so they can live a long life without any complications. For others, symptoms may slowly progress, which can lead to complications if left untreated.
If left untreated, a leaking heart valve can result in heart failure or another cardiac-related life-threatening condition. If the condition worsens, a heart valve replacement may be required to prolong ones life.
If properly managed, a patient can experience a long-life expectancy, but if ignored or left untreated, a leaking heart valve can become deadly.
Leaky Heart Valve And Mitral Regurgitation
Causes of a leaky mitral valve include:
- Rheumatic heart disease
Some people with a leaky mitral valve don’t require treatment. The standard approach is observation over time. Experts don’t recommend daily medication for mitral regurgitation unless there is significant heart failure.
Surgery to repair or replace a mitral valve that is leaking severely can result in significant improvement for certain people. Because mitral regurgitation is slowly progressive, deciding when to operate — neither too early, nor too late — can be difficult.
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The Ticker Tapes Podcast
Alex Martin’s hope of joining the army was dashed after a shock diagnosis. Alex talks about the physical challenges and emotional strain as he recovers from a major operation, and adjusts to a new life with a mechanical heart valve. Hear his story and other real experiences from people living with heart and circulatory diseases.
Symptoms Of Leaky Heart Valves
A leaky heart valve often has no symptoms, making it hard to diagnose. Many healthy individuals may have one or more slightly leaky valves, as this condition is only a concern if these leaks are enough to disrupt the blood flow significantly. Those with severe leaky heart valves may experience symptoms such as shortness of breath, swelling and fluid retention in the legs or other regions of the body, lightheadedness, rapid heartbeat, heart palpitations, and fatigue.
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Exercises For Leaky Heart Valve
While information pertaining specifically to leaky heart valves and exercise is lacking, high-intensity exercise is generally not recommended with valvular heart disease as it may cause further deterioration of the valve, worsening symptoms of valve failure, and impact overall survival. Taking this into consideration, if any exercise is to be performed by a leaky valve patient, it should be low-impact to avoid this sort of complication.
A study conducted in 2010 found that in a patient with moderate-to-severe mitral valve disease, exercise resulted in increased disease severity and increased symptoms of heart failure in about one-third of participants tested. This supports the notion of adhering to low-intensity exercise.
However, another study also conducted in 2010 found that exercise had no effect on mitral valve disease.
It is possible that differences in patient populations, differing grades of mitral valve disease, and differences in study design were likely the cause of these contradictory results.
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Emily Lunardo studied medical sociology at York University with a strong focus on the social determinants of health and mental illness. She is a registered Zumba instructor, as well as a Canfit Pro trainer, who teaches fitness classes on a weekly basis. Emily practices healthy habits in her own life as well as helps others with their own personal health goals. Emily joined Bel Marra Health as a health writer in 2013.
What Is Heart Valve Disease
Heart valve disease is when one or more of your heart valves dont work like they should.
There are several types of heart valve disease. The main problems are caused by the valve not opening fully or the valve not closing properly:
If the valve doesnt open fully, it will block or restrict the flow of blood. This is called valve stenosis or valve narrowing.
If the valve doesnt close fully, the blood will leak back into the heart instead of forwards into the body. This is called valve incompetence, valve regurgitation or a leaky valve.
These problems can put extra strain on your heart and make your heart work harder. This can cause you to have symptoms like feeling more tired and out of breath. And overtime, it can increase your risk of having a heart attack, a stroke and other heart conditions.
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What To Expect From Surgery
Surgery isnt always used to treat a leaky heart valve. But when it does become so severe that it needs to either be repaired or replaced, youll want to get back to exercising, eating, and drinking normally as soon as possible. However, dont put too much pressure on yourself at first. WebMD notes that it will take a few weeks to regain your energy.
Patients who are coming out of surgery will need to make a few slight changes to their diet. Theyll want to focus on eating more heart healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, says WebMD. Exercise is also important to help regain strength. Just dont do too much too soon. Exercising is something that should be gradually eased into and built up over time.
In most cases, the recovery time from surgery is about 4- to 8-weeks. If open heart surgery isnt needed, then it could be even shorter than that.
Treatment Of A Leaky Mitral Valve
In this scenario, the leaky mitral valve doesnt require treatment, but rather will be observed by a doctor over time. Patients wont even need to take medication. The only time they will need to take daily medication is if there is heart failure. Similar to a leaky aortic valve, surgery can be used in extreme cases. Because mitral regurgitation is slowly progressive, deciding when to operate neither too early, nor too late can be difficult, writes WebMD.
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How Is Heart Valve Disease Diagnosed
If you are having symptoms, your doctor will suggest doing some tests to see how your heart is working.
If you arent having symptoms, your doctor can still pick up signs of possible problems with your heart if they listen to the rhythm of your heart. If your doctor hears a murmur , they may refer you for further tests to see how your heart is working.
What Are Heart Valves
The heart consists of 4 chambers–2 atria and 2 ventricles . Blood passes through a valve as it leaves each chamber of the heart. The valves prevent the backward flow of blood. They act as one-way inlets of blood on one side of a ventricle and one-way outlets of blood on the other side of a ventricle. The 4 heart valves include the following:
Tricuspid valve. Located between the right atrium and the right ventricle.
Pulmonary valve. Located between the right ventricle and the pulmonary artery.
Mitral valve. Located between the left atrium and the left ventricle.
Aortic valve. Located between the left ventricle and the aorta.
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Is A Leaky Heart Valve Serious
Is a leaky heart valve serious? Will it kill you? How long can you live with a leaky heart valve? If you have valve regurgitation or you know somebody who does, these questions have probably crossed your mind. After all, it is a heart condition.
Heart valve regurgitation occurs when blood flows back through one of the heart valves when the heart contracts. The problem, which can come on suddenly or develop gradually over time, can be serious, yet that isnt always the case.
Sometimes, the valve leakage is minor and requires little to no treatment. Other times, the regurgitation is severe and places considerable strain on the heart. Then, leaking heart valve surgery and other treatments may be necessary. In general, the seriousness of a leaky heart valve depends upon the degree of regurgitation and how it interferes with the flow of blood through the heart and body.
Mitral Valve Repaired Energy Restored
The feeling of having my normalcy back was immediate. I could breathe, Gallipo said. I was in bed in the hospital, and Dr. Wang came in and asked, How are you feeling? I said, I feel like I can get up and dance!
Dr. Wang says thats not uncommon. If theres adequate reduction in regurgitation, people notice a benefit immediately, he said. He also noted that surgery is still the standard approach for restoring mitral valve function. Theres usually mild or moderate residual regurgitation after the mitral clip procedure, he said. So the FDA has outlined certain criteria for use of this device.
As for Linda Gallipo, shes feeling much more energetic. She has returned to her active lifestyle and is planning a trip to California. She can also finally return to Dr. Muir to talk about new medication for her hepatitis C. I feel like a brand new person, she said. I cant get over it.”
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What Are The Symptoms Of Leaking Heart Valves
Leaking of heart valves means that the heart is not able to pump out enough blood to reach the peripheral organs and tissues. In this situation, the heart tends to beat faster in order to pump out more blood rapidly.Therefore, symptoms of leaky heart valves can be seen as the following:
- Chest discomfort or chest pain in severe conditions
- Swelling over ankles or feet
- Tiredness or fatigue
- Dizziness or fainting
Signs and symptoms may appear rapidly if the cause for valvular insufficiency is of a sudden onset whereas in some patients the signs and symptoms may develop gradually and are often unnoticeable.
Symptoms Of A Leaky Heart Valve
Frequently, a leaky heart valve causes no symptoms. Many healthy people have one or more valves that are slightly leaky.
If the heart valve leak is severe, it may impair the forward flow of blood. This can cause symptoms of congestive heart failure, which include:
- Shortness of breath, especially with exertion or when lying flat
- Leg swelling or fluid retention elsewhere in the body
Other symptoms of a leaky heart valve may include:
Even when there is significant valve regurgitation, there may be no symptoms.
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What Are The Risk Factors
Common risk factors for leaky valves are older age, family history, history of heart infections, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, smoking, and lack of physical exercise. Some medications can also put you at risk of developing a leaky valve. While genetic or age-related risk factors cant be changed, managing or reducing the controllable risk factors as much as possible can help reduce your overall risk for leaky valves. Not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, and daily exercise like walking are important steps to reduce overall risk. As always, check with a doctor before beginning a new exercise program if you have any existing health conditions.
How Is A Leaky Heart Valve Treated
Some cases dont require any treatment. But treatment may be necessary if the condition:
- Affects your ability to have an enjoyable or productive life.
- Causes troubling symptoms.
- Places a strain on your heart.
- Threatens to shorten your life span.
If needed, there are many types of heart valve surgery to repair or replace a leaky valve. Your healthcare team will help you decide what procedure is right for you. The decision will be based on which valve is involved and the particular cause of the leak.
Some examples of procedures include:
- Valve repair, which often includes an annuloplasty which is a ring that is used to tighten or reinforce the leaky valve.
- Procedures to place a clip on the valve.
- Surgery to replace the leaking valve with a device made of carbon and metal.
- Surgery to replace the valve with one donated from a deceased human or animal.
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What Causes Leaky Heart Valves
The causes of leaky heart valves vary with each heart valve.
Causes of a leaky aortic valve include:
- The congenital bicuspid aortic valve, in which there are two flaps instead of three. It is present from birth
- Rheumatic heart disease, a complication of rheumatic fever
Causes of a leaky mitral valve include:
- Rheumatic heart disease
Causes of a leaky tricuspid valve:
Many healthy adults may have a slightly leaky tricuspid valve, which usually causes no problems and often does not require treatment or follow-up. One of the main causes of tricuspid valve leak is pulmonary hypertension.
Diagnosing And Treating Leaking Heart Valve
Just as causes vary by valve, treatment varies based on which valve is leaky. Diagnosis of this condition is usually completed by listening to the heart through a stethoscope and observing atypical sounds like heart murmurs, as well as examining images produced by an echocardiogram.
A leaky aortic valve may be treated using blood pressure medications, diuretics, and in severe cases, surgery. A leaky mitral valve often doesnt require treatment, and doctors usually recommend steady observation over time. However, if the mitral valve is leaking severely, surgery may be required. In the case of a leaky tricuspid valve, the use of diuretics can help relieve any bodily swelling, and in very rare cases, surgery may be required to replace the valve. Finally, a leaky pulmonary valve requires no direct treatmentthe best way to treat this is to address the medical condition that is causing it.
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A Little Clip Can Make A Big Difference
Once, problems with the internal structure of the heart and its valves could only be fixed with open-heart surgery.
The AMITA Health Heart & Vascular Institute is widely recognized for pioneering and deploying many of the most advanced treatment options for structural heart problems, including the minimally invasive MitraClip procedure to repair a leaky mitral valve.
This catheter-based procedure allows doctors to repair the leak without opening the chest or temporarily stopping the heart. Thats why the relative risk to the patient and recovery time are significantly decreased.
“The clip does not prolong life, but it does improve functional capacity, such as walking farther without experiencing the symptoms that brought them to us for treatment,” says Dr. Shivaraju. “These improvements usually lead to a better quality of life for the patient and the family.”