The Effects of Leaky Heart Valves

The human heart has four valves that ensure that blood flows through the heart in the proper direction. Leaky heart valves, also called valvular insufficiency, are a type of heart valve disease. A leaky heart valve occurs when the valve does not close completely, allowing blood to flow backward across the valve. The result is a heart not working as efficiently as it should.

  1. Heart Murmurs

    • Doctors often see heart murmurs or an irregular heartbeat, which can be found with a stethescope, as symptoms of a possible leaky heart valve.

    Fatigue

    • Because the heart is not functioning at full capacity, people with leaky heart valves often feel easily fatigued and unable to do daily activities. Some people also feel dizzy, and can faint.

    Shortness of breath

    • People with leaky heart valves often experience shortness of breath, especially when they exert themselves or lie down flat. Propping up on pillows to sleep can help.

    Swelling

    • Leaky heart valves can cause swelling in the ankles, also called edema. Swelling can also occur in the stomach and in the veins along the neck.

    Chest pain

    • Those with advanced heart valve disease can experience pain that often feels like a heavy weight on the chest.

    Advanced Effects

    • If left untreated, or in severe cases, leaky heart valves can lead to heart failure. In cases that progress slowly, doctors can find it difficult to identify symptoms, and many people feel no symptoms at all.

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