Our heart experts at Blessing can determine the type and severity of your heart valve problem. This information helps our doctors develop the best treatment plan for you.

Signs of Heart Valve Disease

Many people are unaware they have a heart valve problem. Your doctor may detect a heart murmur, which is an unusual heartbeat sound, during a routine checkup. Not all murmurs indicate a heart valve problem, however.

Some signs of heart valve disease include:

  • Unusual fatigue

  • Shortness of breath, especially when lying down or after activity like climbing stairs

  • Swelling (edema) in the ankles, feet, legs, stomach and veins in the neck

  • Chest pain, especially during physical activity or exertion

  • Fluttering, racing heartbeat

  • Dizziness

Types of Heart Valve Disease

There are several types of heart valve disease including:

  • Regurgitation, or leaky valves, which occurs when a valve does not close tightly and blood leaks back into one of the heart’s chambers.

  • Stenosis, which occurs when a heart valve does not fully open due to stiffness or thickening. As a result, not enough blood flows through the valve.

  • Mitral valve prolapse, which occurs when the two flaps of the mitral valve bulge upward into the heart’s upper left chamber. The mitral valve allows blood to pass from the heart’s upper left side to the lower left side. When the flaps bulge, or prolapse, a small amount of blood leaks backward through the valve. Mitral valve prolapse is typically harmless. You may need treatment if the prolapse causes an irregular heart rhythm, or arrhythmia, or the regurgitation is severe.

  • Atresia, a congenital heart defect which is present at birth. People with atresia have a missing or improperly formed heart valve that may hinder proper blood flow.

Causes of Heart Valve Disease

Age and certain conditions can stretch and distort heart valves. It is not uncommon to be born with a congenital heart valve problem and not know it until you are an adult.

Risk factors for heart valve disease include:

  • Damage from previous heart attack

  • High blood pressure

  • Heart failure

  • Heart disease, including atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries)

  • Rheumatic fever or untreated strep infections

  • Heart infections, such as infective endocarditis

  • Autoimmune disorders

  • Marfan syndrome, a congenital connective tissue disorder

  • Cancer treatments, such as radiation and chemotherapy

Diagnosing Heart Valve Disease

In addition to a physical exam and evaluation of symptoms, our heart specialists use the latest technology to quickly and accurately diagnose heart valve disease.

Our diagnostic tests include:

  • Echocardiogram (echo): This ultrasound test measures your heart’s pumping action and can detect heart valve problems.

  • Transesophageal echocardiography (TEE): Your doctor inserts a tube into your mouth and esophagus and uses an ultrasound to get a more detailed view of heart valves and chambers.

  • Electrocardiogram (EKG/ECG): This procedure measures your heart’s electrical activity. The reading shows whether your heart is enlarged, has an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), or if there are signs of damage from a heart attack.

  • Cardiac catheterization: Your doctor inserts a flexible tube, or catheter, into a blood vessel that goes to your heart. This procedure evaluates how well your blood moves through the heart’s valves.

  • Chest X-rays: These images show the size and shape of your heart, lungs and blood vessels. Valve problems may change the shape of your heart or cause calcium deposits to build up in your heart or on the valves.

  • Stress test: Your doctor monitors your heart rate as you walk on a treadmill or as medication takes effect. A stress test detects artery disease and gauges your heart’s response to exertion.

Heart Valve Disease Treatments

Depending on your heart valve problem, medications and lifestyle changes such as a healthier diet and exercise can alleviate symptoms and prevent more serious problems. If your heart valve problem significantly affects your heart’s ability to pump blood, your doctor may recommend surgery.

Heart valve surgery options at Blessing include:

  • Valve repair: Your doctor patches tears in your heart valve or separates fused valve flaps.

  • Valve replacement: Your doctor removes your damaged heart valve and replaces it with a man-made valve or a valve made from heart tissue taken from a pig (porcine) or cow (bovine).

Learn more about heart surgery at Blessing.

Contact Us

To schedule an appointment with a cardiologist, please call 217-214-3424To view upcoming heart related events please click here.