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Valve Regurgitation

What is valvular regurgitation?

Valvular regurgitation is a backflow of blood that occurs when the heart contracts. This typically occurs because a heart valve fails to close properly.

What are the common signs and symptoms of valvular regurgitation?

The severity and the pace at which the condition develops directly affects the symptoms of valvular regurgitation. Symptoms may include: fatigue, especially if you engage in increased activity; blood rushing turbulently through the heart (which results in a heart murmur); shortness of breath, especially if lying down or exerting yourself; lightheadedness; coughing, especially if lying down or at night; heart palpitations; swollen ankles or feet.

Frequently, valvular regurgitation is mild and develops slowly over time; in fact, for decades no symptoms may be apparent. Often the condition is first detected when your doctor uses a stethoscope to listen to your heart beat and picks up the distinctive sound of a heart murmur. Other times, the problem develops swiftly, causing the sudden emergence of extreme symptoms.

What caused valvular regurgitation?

Valvular regurgitation can be caused by many factors, including: valve prolapse; tissue damage; rheumatic fever; wear and tear on the valve; a prior heart attack; untreated high blood pressure; and congenital heart defects. Severe valvular regurgitation, regardless of its cause, can weaken your heart.

Is valvular regurgitation dangerous?

Valvular regurgitation may not progress and may never pose a serious threat to your health. But severe valvular regurgitation may cause heart complications and may require surgery to correct.

What are the risk factors associated with valvular regurgitation?

Several factors can increase your risk of valvular regurgitation, including: a history of valvular prolapse or valvular stenosis; a past heart attack; congenital heart disease; and aging. If you’re a woman of childbearing age with valvular regurgitation, discuss pregnancy and family planning with your doctor because your heart works harder during pregnancy.

How a heart with valvular regurgitation tolerates this extra work depends on the degree of severity and how well your heart pumps. If you become pregnant, you should seek an evaluation by your cardiologist and obstetrician throughout your entire pregnancy, labor and delivery, and after delivery as well.

How is valvular regurgitation detected?

Sometimes the first signs of valvular regurgitation are actually those of its complications, including heart failure which occurs when your heart can’t pump enough blood to the rest of your body, causing shortness of breath, fluid buildup and fatigue. There are several possible causes for these signs, including valvular regurgitation. Valvular regurgitation is usually discovered earlier, during a routine examination when your doctor listens to your heart with a stethoscope. Valvular regurgitation can cause an abnormal heart sound (heart murmur).

What complications may be caused by valvular regurgitation?

When it is mild, valvular regurgitation typically never cause problems. But when it is severe, valvular regurgitation may lead to these complications:  heart failureatrial fibrillationendocarditis; and pulmonary hypertension.

How is valvular regurgitation treated?

Treatment of valvular regurgitation depends on how severe your condition is, whether it is getting worse, and signs and symptoms. For mild cases, treatment may not be necessary. You may need heart surgery to repair or replace the valve for more severe cases. Left untreated, severe valvular regurgitation can cause heart failure or irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias).

What can I do to prevent valvular regurgitation?

Often, valvular regurgitation isn’t a preventable condition, though there are steps you can take to protect your heart valves from damage, including: treat your sore throat; take good care of your teeth and gums; keep your heart healthy by avoiding or treating high blood pressure.

When should I see a doctor if I develop symptoms that suggest valvular regurgitation?

You should see your doctor immediately if you develop symptoms that suggest valvular regurgitation or another heart problem.

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