Yakima Heart Center

What is your Diagnosis?

Valve Disease

The following information contains excerpts from the website cardiosmart.org which we recommend as a resource for more information regarding heart disease.


Heart valve disease is a condition in which one or more of your heart valves don't work properly. The heart has four valves: the tricuspid (tri-CUSS-pid), pulmonary (PULL-mun-ary), mitral (MI-trul), and aortic (ay-OR-tik) valves. 

These valves have tissue flaps that open and close with each heartbeat. The flaps make sure blood flows in the right direction through your heart's four chambers and to the rest of your body. Birth defects, age-related changes, infections, or other conditions can cause one or more of your heart valves to not open fully or to let blood leak back into the heart chambers. This can make your heart work harder and affect its ability to pump blood. 


Heart valves can have three basic kinds of problems:

  • Regurgitation, or backflow, occurs when a valve doesn't close tightly. Blood leaks back into the heart chamber rather than flowing forward through the heart or into an artery.
  • Stenosis occurs when the flaps of a valve thicken, stiffen, or fuse together. This prevents the heart valve from fully opening, and not enough blood flows through the valve.
  • Atresia occurs when a valve lacks an opening for blood to pass through.


Some causes and risk factors for heart valve disorders include:

 Heart Conditions and Other Disorders
  • Damage and scar tissue due to a heart attack or injury to the heart.
  • Advanced high blood pressure and heart failure. These conditions can enlarge the heart or the main arteries.
  • Narrowing of the aorta due to atherosclerosis (ath-er-o-skler-O-sis).
Age-Related Changes
  • Men older than 65 and women older than 75 are prone to developing calcium and other deposits on their heart valves. These deposits stiffen and thicken the valve flaps and limit blood flow (stenosis).
Rheumatic Fever
  • Some people have heart valve disease due to untreated strep throat or other infections with strep bacteria, which progress to rheumatic fever.
  • Common germs that enter through the bloodstream and get carried to the heart can sometimes infect the inner surface of the heart, including the heart valves. This rare, but sometimes life-threatening infection is called endocarditis (EN-do-kar-DI-tis).

A number of other conditions and factors are sometimes linked to heart valve disease. However, it's often unknown how these conditions actually cause heart valve disease. 


The main sign of heart valve disease is an unusual heart sound called a heart murmur. Your doctor can hear a heart murmur with a stethoscope.

Other common signs and symptoms of heart valve disease relate to heart failure, which heart valve disease can eventually cause. These symptoms include:

  • Unusual fatigue (tiredness)
  • Shortness of breath, especially when you exert yourself or when you're lying down
  • Swelling of your ankles, feet, or sometimes the abdomen

Heart valve disease can cause chest pain that may only happen when you exert yourself. You also may notice a fluttering, racing, or irregular heartbeat. Some types of heart valve disease, such as aortic or mitral valve stenosis, can cause dizziness or fainting.

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