What is Aortic Valve Disease?
There are two main types of aortic valve disease:
- Aortic valve stenosis
- Aortic valve regurgitation
Aortic Valve Stenosis
Aortic valve stenosis is a serious valve disease. It is most common in older individuals. As we age, calcium deposits may make the aortic valve leaflets (flaps)
stiff and hard. If the leaflets aren’t flexible, they can’t open completely and the valve opening narrows. The heart must work harder to push blood through the narrower opening.
Aortic valve stenosis can also be present at birth (called bicuspid aortic valve, this is an inherited heart defect that develops before birth, when two of the leaflets of the aortic valve grow together, so the valve only has two leaflets, rather than three) or can occur due to scarring from an infection or inflammation that sometimes develops with age.
Shown below are pictures of aortic valves with no stenosis, moderate stenosis, and severe stenosis:
Untreated aortic valve stenosis may eventually lead to congestive heart failure (a medical condition that occurs when the heart is not able to pump enough blood to the body), chest pain and syncope (feeling light-headed or faint, temporary loss of consciousness).
Aortic Valve Regurgitation
Regurgitation or leaking occurs when the aortic valve’s leaflets don’t close tightly. When the valve doesn’t close completely, blood moves forward, but also leaks back into the ventricle. Aortic valve regurgitation limits the amount of blood that is pushed out to the rest of the body. It can lead to congestive heart failure, fatigue and feeling light-headed or faint (syncope)
Leaking in the aortic valve can occur suddenly or develop over many years. It can occur due to:
- An infection, such as rheumatic fever (an inflammatory disease that may develop after strep throat or scarlet fever) or endocarditis (an infection of the inner lining of the heart)
- Aortic valve stenosis (narrowing of the opening of the aortic valve)
- Untreated high blood pressure
- An injury or trauma to your chest or aorta (the aorta is the main artery in the body that delivers oxygen-rich blood)
- Aortic dissection (small tear)
- Other diseases, such as Marfan syndrome (a genetic disorder of the connective tissue that may affect the eyes, skeleton and heart) or ankylosing spondylits (a type of arthritis in the spine)
- A defect in the valve that is present at birth (congenital)
As the condition worsens and your symptoms become more severe, the valve may need to be repaired or replaced.