Heart valve disease explained: A patient's handbook

Written by: Dr Ananth Kidambi
Published: | Updated: 13/06/2024
Edited by: Aoife Maguire

Heart valve disease is a condition that affects the valves of the heart, which regulate blood flow in and out of the heart chambers. Leading consultant cardiologist Dr Ananth Kidambi provides a clear understanding of what heart valve disease entails, its symptoms, causes, and the treatment options available.



What is heart valve disease?

Heart valve disease takes place when one or more of the heart's valves fail to work correctly. The heart is made up of four valves: the mitral, aortic, tricuspid, and pulmonary valves. These valves ensure that blood flows in the correct direction through the heart’s chambers and to the rest of the body. When a valve does not open or close properly, it can disrupt blood flow and lead to various health problems.


Types of heart valve disease


There are two main types of heart valve disease:


Stenosis: This occurs when the valve opening becomes narrowed, restricting blood flow. Imagine trying to push water through a partially blocked pipe; this is similar to how blood flow is restricted in stenosis.


Regurgitation: Also known as insufficiency or incompetence, this happens when a valve does not close properly, causing blood to leak backwards. Think of it like a door that doesn’t shut completely, allowing air to flow back through.


What are the symptoms to watch out for?


Heart valve disease can manifest with a variety of symptoms, many of which are similar to those of other heart conditions. Common symptoms include:


  • Shortness of breath: This may occur during activity or even at rest.
  • Fatigue: Feeling unusually tired or weak.
  • Palpitations: Noticeable, irregular heartbeats.
  • Swollen ankles or feet: This can indicate fluid retention.
  • Chest pain or discomfort: Particularly during physical exertion.
  • Dizziness or fainting: These can be signs of reduced blood flow to the brain.


Causes and risk factors


Several factors can contribute to heart valve disease:


  • Age-related changes: Over time, heart valves can thicken and become less flexible.
  • Congenital valve disease: Some individuals are born with valve abnormalities.
  • Rheumatic fever: This can damage the heart valves and is a complication of untreated strep throat.
  • Infections: Such as infective endocarditis, an infection of the heart’s inner lining.
  • Heart attack: Damage to the heart muscle can affect valve function.


Diagnosis and treatment


Diagnosing heart valve disease typically involves a physical examination and tests, including echocardiograms (ultrasound of the heart), and sometimes cardiac MRI.


The treatment varies based on the type and severity of the valve disease: Options include:


  • Observation only: Heart valve disease may not be of immediate concern, but may need regular surveillance to ensure complications do not arise.
  • Medication: To manage symptoms and prevent further complications.
  • Valve repair: Surgeons may be able to repair the valve to restore its function.
  • Valve replacement: In more severe cases, the damaged valve may need to be replaced with a mechanical or biological valve.



Living with heart valve disease


Managing heart valve disease often involves regular follow-up with your cardiologist, a healthy lifestyle, and adherence to prescribed treatments. It's crucial to monitor symptoms and report any changes to your doctor promptly.


Understanding heart valve disease empowers you to take an active role in your heart health. With the right care and management, many individuals with heart valve disease lead full and active lives.




If you would are concerned about heart valve disease and would like to book a consultation with Dr Kidambi, do not hesitate to do so by visiting his Top Doctors profile today.

By Dr Ananth Kidambi

Dr Ananth Kidambi is a renowned consultant cardiologist, currently practising in Leeds. He treats various cardiological problems, focusing principally on general cardiology, palpitations, chest discomfort, dizziness, collapse, heart valve disease and heart imaging including echocardiography and MRI imaging.
Dr Kidambi completed his medical studies at Oxford and Cambridge Universities and subsequently undertook his cardiology training rotation in Leeds. He earned a PhD from Leeds University, where he researched advanced cardiac MRI techniques for patients post-heart attack.
In addition to his clinical role, Dr Kidambi serves as an honorary senior lecturer at Leeds University. He has authored over 70 peer-reviewed publications and book chapters and co-authored the widely-used Cardiac MRI pocket guides. He is a national examiner for Advanced Life Support and the British Society of Echocardiography and an educational supervisor for cardiology trainees in Leeds. He previously served as a mentor for the Royal College of Physicians.
Dr Kidambi has served the role of full-time consultant cardiologist at Leeds Teaching Hospitals since 2016 and has received a clinical excellence award for his contributions. He holds the positions of clinical informatics lead for cardiology and cardiac MRI governance lead at Leeds Teaching Hospitals. Additionally, he is a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and a member of the British Cardiovascular Society, the European Society of Cardiology, the British Society of Echocardiography, and the European Association of Cardiovascular Imaging.

Dr Kidambi firmly believes in a patient-centred approach, providing patients with the attention to detail and expert information to understand, plan and manage their heart condition.

Dr Kidambi is available for consultation for acute or chronic heart conditions.

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Overall assessment of their patients

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