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Signs and Symptoms of Heart Valve Problems

by
author image Tricia Mangan
Based in New York City, Tricia Mangan began her writing career in 2001. She has co-authored a National Cancer Institute report and a number of research articles that have appeared in medical journals. Tricia holds a Master of Arts in clinical psychology from Stony Brook University and boasts diverse clinical, research and teaching experience.
Signs and Symptoms of Heart Valve Problems
Signs and Symptoms of Heart Valve Problems Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images

Each of the heart’s four valves--aortic, pulmonary, mitral and tricuspid--is susceptible to developing problems. Sometimes, the pathway through the valve may narrow, resulting in a condition called stenosis. Alternatively, the valve may fail to close fully, resulting in a backflow or leakage of blood referred to as regurgitation. People with heart valve problems often do not notice any symptoms until the condition becomes severe.

Symptoms of Oxygen Deprivation

Damaged heart valves affect the normal flow of blood into and out of the heart. Consequently, pressure can sometimes build in the left ventricle--the part of the heart that normally sends blood out of the aorta to the rest of the body. This can cause blood to back up into the lungs, interfering with a person’s ability to breathe. According to CardiologyChannel.com, shortness of breath commonly occurs among those with aortic stenosis, although it can be a symptom of pulmonary and mitral valve problems, as well. Severely constricted heart valves may limit blood flow out of the heart to such an extent that the brain becomes deprived of oxygen. This can cause syncope, or loss of consciousness. Prolonged and serious oxygen deprivation can cause symptoms of cyanosis, including a bluish appearance of the lips or face.



Other bodily organs can also become deprived of oxygen, which can lead to symptoms of fatigue and weakness. Merck.com notes that poor cardiac output and blood circulation throughout the body can lead some people to develop skin that is pale and cold to the touch.

Chest Pain

Many types of valve problems, including aortic valve regurgitation and stenosis, mitral valve prolapse and pulmonary valve stenosis and regurgitation, can cause symptoms of chest pain or discomfort. According to CardiologyChannel.com, this type of chest pain--known as angina--occurs because parts of the heart muscle fail to get enough oxygen-rich blood. Symptoms of angina may worsen during moderate activity or exercise as the heart has to work even harder to try to pump enough blood through the faulty valve(s).

Irregular Heart Beat and Murmurs

According to MayoClinic.com, those with pulmonary valve stenosis or mitral valve regurgitation may develop a heart murmur--a swishing sound detectable by doctors listening to the heart with a stethoscope. Murmurs are usually a sign of abnormal or turbulent blood flow through the heart. According to Merck.com, people with tricuspid stenosis may develop a murmur that is accompanied by a fluttering sensation in the neck--a symptom caused by the irregular pulsation of blood in the jugular vein. Those with tricuspid regurgitation who also have high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs--a condition called pulmonary hypertension--may also experience this symptom, according to MedlinePlus.



Those with aortic valve regurgitation may experience symptoms of a fluttering heart and rapid pulse, while those with a mitral valve prolapse--a chronic condition in which the mitral valve fails to close properly, allowing blood to leak backward into the left atrium--may develop a racing pulse or an arrhythmia, or irregular heart beat.

Swelling

Individuals with tricuspid and pulmonary valve problems may develop edema, or swelling. According to MayoClinic.com, pulmonary valve regurgitation can overtax the right side of the heart, causing it to fail. When this occurs, fluid builds up in the body, causing swelling in the hands, feet, legs and abdomen. Patients suffering from tricuspid regurgitation and pulmonary hypertension are also likely to develop general swelling of the body and edema in the abdominal region, ankles and feet, according to MedlinePlus. Edema may also be associated with decreased urine output.

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