The Nature of Valvular Heart Disease

By: verlyn
This article describes what valvular heart disease is about. It is a somewhat technical discussion. I hope that it is presented in such a way that it is understandable.

Valvular heart disease or simply heart valve disease takes place when the valves of the heart do not work in the way they were meant to. The American Heart Association estimates that in the United States on an annual basis, five million people are diagnosed with valvular heart disease. Lets take a closer look at this debilitating disease.

The heart is composed of four chambers and at the exit of each of these chambers lays a valve. These valves allow for the flow of blood on a one-way basis through to the heart. It is the job of each of the four heart valves to ensure that blood can flow easily and freely in a simple and forward direction to the heart and also to ensure that there is no leakage of blood in a backward direction. It is important to note that blood flows from your right and left atria into your ventricles through the open mitral and tricuspid valves.

When the ventricles are full of blood both the tricuspid as well as the mitral valves completely shut in order to prevent any blood from managing to flow in a backward direction and into the atria. In the meantime the ventricles go through a squeezing or contracting action.

When the ventricles start their contracting action, this forces the aortic and pulmonic valves to open and blood is then easily pumped from the ventricles and through the valves that are opened. The blood is then transported into the pulmonary artery and from there is taken in the direction of the lungs, the aorta of the heart and finally the rest of the body. Once the ventricles stop contracting they are then able to relax. When this relaxation happens, it causes both the aortic and pulmonic valves to close shut. By doing so, the valves do not allow any blood whatsoever to make its way back into the ventricles. This pattern of blood transportation is done over and over again and makes it possible for blood to maintain a consistent flow to the heart, the lungs and to every area of the human body.

There are different kinds of valvular heart disease. Generally it is classified as being valvular stenosis and valvular insufficiency. Valvular stenosis takes place when an opening for a valve is smaller than it should be due to leaflets that are fused or stiff. The fact that the opening is narrowed means that the heart has a more difficult time transporting blood through it. Valvular stenosis can lead to heart failure if not kept in check. When four valves of the heart are deemed as stenotic this means that they are hardened and blood flow is restricted. In this way the name of the condition becomes known as pulmonic stenosis, aortic stenosis, mitral stenosis or tricuspid stenosis.

Valvular insufficiency is when a valve is not able to close as tightly as it needs to close. This condition causes blood to leak backwards and causes the heart to work harder but also a limited amount of blood reaches the body. Valvular insufficiency is sometimes called a leaky valve, or incompetence or regurgitation.
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