Heart problems take a toll on more than just the heart. They can affect the whole body. SSM Health heart and vascular specialists keep this in the forefront of your care plan, treating the whole rather than just the part.
Your heart has four valves - mitral, tricuspid, aortic and pulmonary. These valves ensure that your blood flows in only one direction as it travels through the heart. When one or more of these valves stops working correctly or efficiently, it causes damage to the heart. This is known as heart valve disease.
Causes of Heart Valve Disease
The causes of heart valve disease vary as do the types of the disease. Some types of heart valve disease are present at birth (congenital), others may develop later in life, over time. Additional causes include:
- Normal aging process
- Damage from a previous heart attack
- Damage by rheumatic fever
- Buildup of calcium on the valve or calcific degeneration
- Infection in the lining of the heart walls and valves
Signs & Symptoms of Heart Valve Disease
Heart valve disease can develop slowly over time, or in some cases, quite rapidly. If it develops slowly, you may not notice any signs or symptoms as your heart begins to adapt to the changing demands on it.
Many symptoms of heart valve disease look similar to congestive heart failure. These symptoms include shortness of breath after limited physical exertion and swelling of the feet, ankles, hands or abdomen. Other symptoms you may experience consist of:
- Chest pain
- Dizziness or fainting
- Rapid weight gain
Treating Heart Valve Disease
When these symptoms begin to affect your daily life, surgical options may need to be considered. Common forms of heart valve disease typically requiring surgery include:
- Stenosis: occurs when a valve does not open fully
- Insufficiency (also called regurgitation): results when the valve does not close fully
- Mitral valve prolapse: when the heart’s left chambers do not close properly
The SSM Health minimally invasive surgery teams are some of the most active in the area. They repair or replace leaky or diseased mitral or aortic valves using the breakthrough keyhole method. This procedure has been shown to significantly reduce complications, pain, scaring and recovery time.
Schedule an appointment with one of our expert surgeons. We’ll help determine the best options for treating your specific heart valve disease.