Valvular Disease

Valvular heart disease is a common heart condition, resulting from damage to the heart valves by disease, birth defects or simple aging. A heart murmur is a common sign of valvular heart disease.

Valvular Heart Disease Characteristics

The heart contains four heart valves that open and close as the heart pumps. All four valves serve the same purpose: They ensure blood flows only in one direction and that sufficient blood is moved with each heart beat.

Valvular heart disease occurs when one or more heart valves are damaged and fail to open or close correctly. If the valve does not close properly, blood can seep back through the valve. This form of valvular heart disease is known as valvular regurgitation. Valvular regurgitation is often associated with another type of valvular heart disease known as mitral valve prolapse.

If the heart valve cannot open fully, insufficient blood is transported with each heart contraction. This type of valvular heart disease is called valvular stenosis.

Heart Murmurs and Valvular Heart Disease

A heart murmur is an abnormal sound made as the heart beats. Heart murmurs can be detected with a stethoscope, and are often described as a “”whooshing”” sound. A heart murmur caused by valvular heart disease may be accompanied by a clicking noise.

The presence of a heart murmur often indicates valvular heart disease, but this is not always the case. Pregnancy, fever, anemia and a type of thyroid gland disease called thyrotoxicosis can all produce heart murmurs.

A heart murmur occurring without other valvular heart disease symptoms in an otherwise healthy heart is not usually cause for alarm. Such heart murmurs are often called “”innocent”” heart murmurs.

A heart murmur is considered abnormal if it occurs in conjunction with other heart disease symptoms. Abnormal heart murmurs are usually caused by valvular heart disease.

Diastolic and Systolic Heart Murmurs

A heart murmur is classified as diastolic or systolic. Diastolic heart murmurs occur as the heart muscles relax. A systolic heart murmur occurs during a heart contraction. Either type of heart murmur may be present due to valvular heart disease.

Consequences of Valvular Heart Disease

A heart murmur should never be ignored. If the cause of the heart murmur is valvular heart disease, the heart is under stress. Valvular heart disease forces the heart to work harder to compensate for the defective heart valve.

Left untreated, valvular heart disease can cause heart failure. Determining whether valvular heart disease is the cause of a heart murmur is, therefore, very important.