How are heart valve disorders diagnosed?
If you experience symptoms of heart valve disease, your doctor will begin listening to your heart with a stethoscope. They will hear any abnormalities in your heartbeat that could indicate problems with your heart valves.
Your doctor may also listen for fluid to your lungs and check your body for water retention symptoms. Both of these symptoms are indicative of a heart valve problem.
Other tests that can be used to diagnose heart valve disease include:
- An electrocardiogram is a test that shows the electrical activity of the heart. This test is used to check for abnormal heart rhythms.
- Echocardiogram uses sound waves to capture images of heart valves and chambers.
- Cardiac catheterization is another test used to diagnose valve disease. This test uses a thin tube or catheter with a camera to take pictures of your heart and blood vessels. This can help your doctor determine the type and severity of your valve disease.
- A chest x-ray may be ordered to take a picture of your heart. If your heart is big, it can tell your doctor.
- An MRI can provide a more detailed picture of your heart. This can help confirm the diagnosis and allow your doctor to determine the best way to treat your valve disease.
- Stress tests can be used to determine how energy is affecting your symptoms. Stress test information can tell your doctor how serious your condition is.
How are heart valve disorders treated?
Treatment of heart valve disease depends on the severity and symptoms of the disease. Most doctors recommend starting with conservative treatment. These include:
- Get regular medical attention
- If you smoke, quit smoking
- Follow a healthy diet
The most commonly prescribed medications are:
- Beta blockers and calcium channel blockers, which help regulate heart rate and blood flow.
- Diuretics to reduce fluid retention
- Vasodilator drugs, which open or widen blood vessels.
If your symptoms worsen, you may need surgery. This may involve repairing the heart valve using one of the following methods:
- Your own tissues
- Animal valves, if you have a biological valve replacement.
- Insert other valves
- Mechanical or synthetic valves
Valvuloplasty can also be used to treat stenosis. During valvuloplasty, a doctor inserts a small balloon into your heart, where it swells a little. The inflation valve increases the size of the hole, after which the balloon is removed.