Symptoms of heart valve disease

Heart valve disease may be mild and severe. Depending on the severity of the disease, the symptoms that emerge will differ.

“Some people may live with mild heart valve problems for many years without developing symptoms. In other people, the condition may worsen over time and symptoms start to show,” says Dr Victor Chao, Senior Consultant, Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery, National Heart Centre Singapore (NHCS), a member of the SingHealth group.

Some of the symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Palpitations
  • Weakness or dizziness
  • Quick weight gain
  • Swelling of ankles, feet, legs, abdomen (oedema)
  • Chest discomfort

Diagnosis of heart valve disease

Heart valve disease is diagnosed with the help of a physical exam, and diagnostic tests such as an echocardiogram, cardiac catheterisation and electrocardiogram (ECG). Your doctor will listen to your heart with a stethoscope for unusual sounds or a heart murmur before recommending these tests.

Treatment of heart valve disease: Medication and heart valve surgery

Heart valve disease can be treated with medication if it is a mild condition, or surgery if the heart valve needs to be repaired or replaced. Factors such as the valve involved, your age, your heart health and your general state of health will determine the treatment procedure. Medication prescribed to treat heart valve disease may be life-long.

Heart valve repair: Surgery can be minimal or extensive depending on the valve problem. Mitral valve​ regurgitation and tricuspid valve regurgitation can be treated with this procedure.

Heart valve replacement: This can be done through conventional surgery or with a minimally invasive procedure, e.g. transcatheter aortic valve implantation, which is used to treat severe aortic stenosis. In this heart valve surgery, a balloon catheter is used to insert a tissue valve through a cut in the groin or chest.

“Heart valve surgery has several benefits. The patient has a lower risk of developing infections, decreased need for life-long medication and increased long-term survival,” says Dr Chao.

See previous page for the different types of heart valve problems and its causes.

Ref: Q15