Heart disease isn’t just one thing. There are many different cardiovascular conditions that are categorized as heart disease. For this article, I wanted to focus on one type of heart disease: aortic valve disease.
Aortic valve disease is when the aortic valve is malfunctioning in some way. The aortic valve is located between the left ventricle of the heart and the aorta, which is the main artery in the body. People can either be born with this condition (congenital heart disease), or it can be caused by other factors like age, infections, or chronic kidney disease.
There are two different types of aortic valve disease: aortic valve stenosis, and aortic valve regurgitation.
Aortic Valve Stenosis: This is when the aortic valve’s flaps (leaflets or cusps) have thickened or stiffened. When this occurs, the valve’s opening narrows and the blood cannot flow as easily. Blood flow is reduced of blocked from the heart into the aorta and throughout the body.
Aortic Valve Regurgitation: This is when the aortic valve’s flaps do not close properly, which causes blood to flow backward into the left ventricle.
If a person has aortic valve disease, these are symptoms they may experience; however, they may not experience many of these symptoms even if they have the disease.
- Chest pain and/or tightness
- Irregular heartbeat
- Heart murmur
- Shortness of breath when active or laying down
- Swelling of ankles and feet
Besides having a heart defect at birth, here are some other causes of aortic valve disease: high blood pressure, heart injury, changes to the heart due to age, prior remote strep throat infection with autoimmune attack on the valve, or prior radiation therapy to the chest.
Aortic valve disease treatment options depend on severity of the disease. If it is a minor case, your doctor or cardiologist will monitor you in the upcoming years. The doctor may recommend medications or lifestyle changes to treat symptoms. Aortic stenosis tends to slowly progress. For more serious/advancing cases, surgery may be appropriate. Aortic valve repair and aortic valve replacement are both surgical options; the type of surgery you will get depends on the damage of the valve.
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, or if heart disease runs in your family, it’s time to go to the doctor get tested. Dr. Kordonowy of Internal Medicine, Lipid & Wellness is a concierge and direct primary care doctor in Fort Myers. Dr. Kordonowy will meet with you, listen to your heart and symptoms, and determine what tests should be done, and if you should see a cardiologist. Click here or call 239-362-3005, ext. 200 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Kordonowy.