Heart valve disease

What is it?

Your heart has four valves that ensure an adequate supply of blood enters and leaves the heart's chambers in one direction, without any backflow. These valves continually open and close to keep blood flowing through the heart to the rest of the body. However, when valves lose their ability to open and close properly, you have heart valve disease.

Generally speaking, valve disorders fall into the following categories:

  • Stenosis (narrowing of the valve) occurs when the valve cannot open as widely as it should, restricting blood flow. Narrowing typically results when valves thicken or stiffen, or when the leaflets of a valve fuse together.
  • Regurgitation, also referred to as valvular insufficiency, or a leaky valve, occurs when blood leaks backward. Regurgitation is typically the result of prolapse, aging or other heart disease.


  • Chest discomfort.
  • Feeling faint or dizzy.
  • Increasing shortness of breath (especially during exercise or when lying down).
  • Swelling in your ankles, feet, legs, abdomen, and veins in neck.
  • Fatigue.
  • Racing or irregular heart rate or heart palpitations.
  • Sudden weight changes (i.e., 2-3 pounds in one day).

Risk factors

Diagnosing heart valve disease

Treating heart valve disease