Valves control the flow of blood into, through and out of the heart. In valve disease, the valve may narrow (stenosis), which can reduce blood flow, or leak (regurgitation), which can allow blood to flow backward though the valve. Common causes of valve disease include congenital heart conditions (present from birth), rheumatic fever (often associated with untreated strep throat or scarlet fever), the formation of calcium deposits around the valve, atherosclerosis (narrowing and hardening of the arteries) and endocarditis (inflammation of the lining inside the heart).
Symptoms vary depending on which valve is affected, but common symptoms include:
- Weakness or chest pain (often increasing with activity)
- Palpitations (rapid, noticeable heart beats)
- Shortness of breath
- Swelling of the feet or ankles