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Valvular Stenosis

What is valvular stenosis?

You have four valves in your heart. When one or more is narrowed, stiffened, thickened, fused or blocked, it is called valvular stenosis. This condition is also referred to as heart valve disease or narrowed valve. When this occurs, the affected valve(s) may force your heart to strain as it pumps your blood through a narrow opening.

What signs and symptoms are common to valvular stenosis?

In the instance of mild heart valve stenosis, you may not have any symptoms. However, more serious valvular stenosis can produce the following symptoms: dizziness and fainting (syncope);chest painshortness of breath as you lie down in the middle of the night; fatigue; swelling of the feet, ankles, legs or other body parts; palpitations; heavy coughing, occasionally with blood-tinged sputum; cyanosis (a bluish tinge to the skin, lips and other areas of the body); multiple heart failure symptoms; and stroke.

What causes valvular stenosis?

Your valvular stenosis may be congenital, or it may be acquired after birth due to other medical conditions Rheumatic fever is one example. Calcium buildup on a valve may occur with aging and result in valvular stenosis as well.

Is valvular stenosis dangerous?

Valvular stenosis can lead to heart failure, among other heart conditions.

Who is most at risk of valvular stenosis?

Risk factors for valvular stenosis include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes and smoking. Some cases of valvular disease tend to be congenital such as pulmonary stenosis. Because most causes of pulmonary valvular stenosis develop before birth, there aren’t many known risk factors. Certain conditions can increase your risk of developing pulmonary valvular stenosis, including: carcinoid syndrome, rheumatic fever, and Noonan’s syndrome.

If you’re a woman of childbearing age with valvular stenosis, discuss pregnancy and family planning with your doctor because your heart works harder during pregnancy. How a heart with valvular stenosis tolerates this extra work depends on the degree of severity and how well your heart pumps. If you become pregnant, you’ll need evaluation by your cardiologist and obstetrician throughout your pregnancy, labor and delivery, and after delivery.

How is valvular stenosis detected?

Mild valvular stenosis may not show any symptoms. It may first appear to your doctor as a heart murmur, and tests such as electrocardiogram (EKG), chest x-ray and echocardiogram and cardiac catheterization may be used to diagnose your valve disease.

How is valvular stenosis treated?

To prevent irreparable damage to your heart due to valvular stenosis, treatments include invasive procedures as well as medications. Invasive treatment is not always called for immediately. Were your tests to indicate you have mild-moderate valvular stenosis without any symptoms, no immediate valve repair or replacement is called for.  As an alternative, your doctor may require frequent checkups to monitor you affected valve(s) closely in order to know if and when your condition worsens and requires other treatment. Certain people with valvular stenosis never require treatment because their condition never becomes severe.

Medications to ease the heart’s workload and regulate its rhythm may reduce your symptoms. Some doctors may prescribe beta blockers or calcium channel blockers, blood thinners and diuretics.  Also, the use of anti-arrhythmic medications is often employed to address atrial fibrillation or other rhythm disturbances related to valvular stenosis.

If you do need valve repair or replacement to treat valvular stenosis, surgical options are available.  These include: repair with balloon valvuloplasty; valve surgery with catheterization; valve replacement with open heart surgery.

What should I do if I believe I have valvular stenosis?

Talk to your doctor if you or your child experiences the following: shortness of breath, fainting (syncope), or chest pain. If you do have valvular stenosis or another heart problem, prompt evaluation and treatment can help reduce your risk of complications.

What can I do to improve the quality of my life if I have valvular stenosis?

Your doctor may suggest steps you can take to improve the quality of our life. These include: limits on the amount of salt in your diet; loss of excess weight; limits on intake of alcohol and caffeine; exercise; regular doctor visits; and prompt medical attention in the event you notice frequent palpitations or feel that your heart is racing.

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