Heart valves act as a kind of valve on the motor's heart. They make sure that the blood always flows in the right direction and does not flow back to where it came from. Heart valve failure prevents this operation and can have fatal consequences. Heart valve deficiency subforms are valvular insufficiency or valvular weakness.

What is a heart valve defect?

Symptoms differ significantly according to severity, localization and type of heart valve defect. Many heart valve defects go unnoticed for a long time, as they initially cause no discomfort.
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The human heart has a total of four heart valves: the aortic and mitral valves are most frequently affected by heart valve defects.

Heart valve failure is a dysfunction of the heart that is either congenital or can be acquired, for example, through a disease. There are several types of heart valve defects: The so-called stenosis is a constriction of the heart valve, which prevents the blood from flowing through.

In case of insufficiency, the heart valve will close only incompletely, so that blood can run back. If the doctor speaks of a combined vitamin, he means a combination of the two first-mentioned heart valve defects.

causes

A heart valve defect is innate in most cases. Sometimes, however, you can acquire one, for example, through an illness. There are a variety of diseases that can cause heart valve failure. Even a not cured flu is one of them. Therefore, it is important to make sure to avoid endurance training in an influenza, but also only in case of a severe cold and to save yourself instead.

If you go jogging with a heavy cold, it can lead to a dramatic undersupply of the blood with oxygen even in young, well-trained people. As a result, the heart has to pump more and may be so burdened by the disease that one or more heart valves will not close properly.

In other cases, the heart valves degenerate mainly for reasons of age: with increasing age calcified not only the blood vessels, but also the heart valves. This process usually results in a narrowing of the heart valves. Another common cause for the development of heart valve defects is an inflammation caused by, for example, bacteria.

Symptoms, complaints & signs

Symptoms differ significantly according to severity, localization and type of heart valve defect. Many heart valve defects go unnoticed for a long time, as they initially cause no discomfort. In some cases, such as mitral valve stenosis, however, acute symptoms can be very acute. Basically, the heart can compensate for most valve defects over a long period of time.

However, this leads to long-term heart failure (heart failure). In some cases, heart valve defects are not noticed until then. A typical symptom is tightness and heavy chest pressure. This is especially true when physical stress. In addition, many suffer from rapid fatigue and general fatigue.

Your performance and concentration can decrease significantly. Often it comes to dizziness and short fainting spells (syncope). Which symptoms actually occur depends on whether the heart valve defect affects the left or right ventricle. Valve defects in the left ventricle cause symptoms similar to bronchitis.

These include breathlessness and a strong coughing sensation (especially at night). Those affected feel better in upright positions than lying down. In the long term, cardiac arrhythmias often occur. If the right heart valve is affected, it causes water retention in the legs and in the abdomen, a blue color of the skin, shortness of breath and liver pain.

Diagnosis & History

Mild heart valve defects are usually discovered by accident and usually do not require treatment. Mostly they are symptom free. However, typical signs of severe heart valve defects may be shortness of breath, a feeling of tightness in the chest, but also hypertension.

Sometimes it can come to fainting. Heart valve defects are diagnosed by ECG and ultrasound. In the ultrasound, the cardiologist (ie, a physician specializing in the human heart) examines the bloodstreams and controls whether they flow as desired. The ECG (also called electrocardiogram or cardiac transcription) is performed either as a 24-hour ECG or exercise ECG.

In the case of a 24-hour ECG, the patient gets 4 electrodes attached to the skin, which are connected to a small box about the size of a walkman. The box is attached to the hip. The ECG then measures cardiac activity during a normal daily routine. Another indication of heart valve failure is cardiac arrhythmia and suspicious noises.

complications

The heart valve failure can lead to heart failure and thus the death of the patient. As a rule, life expectancy is significantly reduced by heart valve failure if no treatment for this disease occurs. The person suffering from the error suffers from a high blood pressure and thus also at an increased risk of a heart attack.

Furthermore, it can lead to respiratory distress and thus to sweats or panic attacks. The general capacity of the patient decreases enormously and cardiac arrhythmias develop. These have a very negative effect on the daily routine of the patient and lead to a reduced quality of life. In some cases, patients completely lose consciousness or may die from respiratory distress.

Likewise, mental illness or depression often occurs. The heart valve defect can only be eliminated with the help of surgical intervention. An artificial flap is used, whereby there are usually no special complications. In severe cases, inflammation may occur after surgery. Therefore, the patient must also take antibiotics for prevention to prevent these inflammations. Successful treatment does not reduce life expectancy.

When should you go to the doctor?

Symptoms of respiratory distress, high blood pressure, or loss of performance may be the result of heart valve failure. A doctor's visit is recommended if the symptoms persist for a longer period. If additional symptoms occur, such as signs of heart failure or a general decrease in well-being, medical advice is also needed. In the case of impairments of consciousness and fainting, the best thing to do is to call the emergency doctor or to bring the person concerned immediately to the nearest hospital.

The same applies to acute cardiac pain and severe respiratory distress. If there is a suspicion of cardiac arrhythmia, this must also be clarified by the doctor and treated if necessary. Particularly at risk for a heart defect are older people and people who may have recovered from a flu badly. Also, viral infections, tumors and other diseases can cause heart valve failure. Those who belong to these risk groups should talk with the family doctor about the symptoms mentioned. Further treatment is usually given by a cardiologist or an internist. Mostly, therapeutic advice is also useful, since heart valve failure can be a significant burden on the psyche.

Treatment & Therapy

Heart valve failure can not be eliminated by administering medication. As a rule, surgery is necessary. Sometimes the patient's own diseased valve can be reconstructed, but in the case of severe heart valve defects, the damaged heart valve is replaced.

Instead, the patient receives an artificial flap inserted. If a heart valve has become too narrow, for example due to calcification, it can also be stretched by means of so-called dilatation. This is done with the help of a balloon, which is placed folded in the appropriate place and then gradually widened.

However, this procedure is only possible in rare cases. In heart valve patients, any bacterial infection can be dangerous as it may cause inflammation of the heart. For this reason, a preventive administration of antibiotics often takes place.

Outlook & Forecast

The prognosis of heart valve failure depends on the affected heart valve as well as the progress of the disease. A potentially poor prognosis is present as soon as the heart function of the patient is impaired. A major heart valve defect is also associated with an increased risk of adverse disease progression. Surgery is necessary to ensure the survival of the patient.

If the operation is successful, the patient can lead a good life despite the illness. Nevertheless, the quality of life is limited and secondary diseases are possible. These are mostly from the psychotherapeutic area, since an inevitable change in the current lifestyle and restriction of the usual options for health reasons in many people to a mental suffering.

A small or mild heart valve defect is usually treated with medication. The lifestyle must also be limited and changed so that there is no life-threatening health.

Basically, patients with a heart valve defect must undergo regular medical checks, as it can come at any time to a worsening of the heart activity. There is a lifelong possibility that an increase in the symptoms develops and a failure of the functioning of the heart takes place. Left untreated, the patient with a heart valve defect is at risk of premature death. The heart activity is disturbed and can cause a sudden acute health-endangering condition.

prevention

If you want to prevent a heart valve error, should change his diet: a lot of fruits and vegetables, but low fat and meat ensure good heart health. Also a normal blood pressure (120 to 80 is optimal) and the avoidance of overweight contribute to the health. Lots of exercise in the fresh air helps. In case of illness, however, the sport should be avoided. Bed rest is urgently needed. Often, however, bacterial infection can cause heart valve failure. Especially streptococci are dangerous to humans.

aftercare

A medical accompaniment after surgery of the heart valve is indispensable. As a rule, staying in the hospital is followed by a cure. Since it is necessary for the patient to take anti-coagulant medication, regular follow-up examinations should be carried out. This is required for a period of three to six months in the case of bi-valves, and a lifelong use of these drugs is planned for artificial valves.

It is important that the affected person themselves after an operation test or observe and after warning signs of her body seek immediate medical attention. By creating a blood count, possible inflammation levels are detected. High-risk patients should be treated with antibiotics to prevent bacterial infections.

Intensive dental hygiene and careful wound disinfection in the pharynx play an important role here. In the first few weeks after the operation, it is important to avoid torsion and strain on the chest and heavy work. Shorter air travel is possible, long-distance travel is advised against until six months after the operation.

Sports activities should initially be limited to easy walks, cycling and swimming. If chest pain occurs, or if the patient finds the sensation of a restriction to be disturbing, it is advisable to consult the attending physician. In these cases, echo tests are a method to diagnose possible disorders after heart valve surgery.

You can do that yourself

If a heart valve failure has been diagnosed, the lifestyle usually needs to be changed. The doctor will recommend to the patient a healthy diet and regular exercise. In addition, should be avoided such as cigarettes, alcohol and coffee. Patients with obesity must take measures to regain normal body weight in the long term. Accompanying the physiotherapy, which is usually recommended to patients with valvular heart failure, there are sports such as swimming or aquajogging.

Activities that put a lot of strain on the body should not be performed. These include bodybuilding and martial arts, but also stressful situations at work. If sudden complaints such as a stinging in the area of ​​the heart, shortness of breath or a tingling sensation in the right arm occur, the rescue service must be called immediately. Usually there is a medical emergency that requires immediate medical attention.

For recurrent complaints, a heart valve defect must be operated on. After such an intervention, the person concerned is protected and bed rested. The heart should not be stressed during the first postoperative period and must be examined regularly to avoid complications. The doctor will name the patient individual measures that make everyday life easier with a heart valve defect.

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