What Is a Leaking Heart Valve?

The heart is the body's engine.
The heart is the body's engine. (Image: Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Q. Thomas Bower)

Your heart valves are workhorses that keep the heart beating. The sound you hear is the valves opening and closing as they direct blood through the heart’s four chambers. According to YourHeartValve.com, the valves withstand about 80 million beats a year. Sometimes the valves malfunction because of leaking.


“Regurgitation” is the medical term used to describe a leaking heart valve. The heart has four valves, and they all can experience regurgitation.


A healthy heart valve pumps blood into the heart’s chambers. The valve closes to keep the blood from re-entering. A leaking heart valve doesn’t close properly. Once the blood is pumped out, some of it leaks back into the valve. As a result, the heart has to work harder to pump blood. According to "The Complete Guide to Women’s Health," valve problems can be mild or life-threatening.


Signs of a leaking heart valve are slow to manifest. According to the American Heart Association, it is unusual to see signs in the early stages of the condition. Signs normally start to appear after the condition has gone on for years.


Symptoms of a leaking heart valve include: fatigue, breathing difficulty, fluid retention, irregular heartbeat and angina.


A leaking heart valve can be repaired or replaced. The best solution depends on the severity of the condition. In severe cases, the heart valve is damaged beyond repair and must be replaced.

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