Aortic valve disease

What is Aortic Valve disease?

    Aortic valve disease encompasses various conditions that impair the proper functioning of your aortic valve. This valve acts as a gateway, regulating blood flow from your heart and into your body's circulatory system. Positioned between your heart's left ventricle and the aorta, it facilitates the passage of blood, which then branches into arteries to supply vital oxygen and nutrients to organs and tissues.

    Functioning in sync with your heartbeat, the aortic valve undergoes the crucial task of opening wide enough to allow blood to pass through efficiently. Equally important is its ability to close tightly to prevent the backflow of blood. Any impairment in performing these essential functions constitutes aortic valve disease.

    Aortic valve disease manifests in two primary forms:

    1. Aortic valve stenosis (aortic stenosis): This condition involves narrowing the aortic valve, impeding its ability to open fully. Consequently, the passage for blood flow becomes restricted, leading to reduced blood flow.

    2. Aortic valve regurgitation (aortic insufficiency): In this case, the aortic valve experiences leakage, failing to close tightly. As a result, some blood flows backwards instead of proceeding forward as intended.

    It's important to note that individuals may have either one or both types of aortic valve disease without exhibiting noticeable symptoms for an extended period. Symptoms typically manifest only after the disease has progressed. Educating yourself about aortic valve disease enables early detection of problems and ensures timely intervention when necessary.

What are the causes?

    Aortic valve disease can stem from various factors, including congenital heart defects present at birth. Other causes that may contribute to the development of aortic valve disease later in life include:

    1. Age-related changes affecting the heart.

    2. Infections involving the heart valves.

    3. High blood pressure (hypertension).

    4. Heart injuries resulting from trauma or other cardiac conditions.

    To gain insight into the underlying causes of aortic valve disease, it's beneficial to understand the normal functioning of heart valves. The heart comprises four valves responsible for maintaining the proper flow of blood in the correct direction:

    1. Aortic valve

    2. Mitral valve

    3. Tricuspid valve

    4. Pulmonary valve

    In aortic valve disease, the valve between the lower left chamber of the heart, known as the left ventricle, and the body's primary artery, the aorta, experiences malfunction. This valve, which consists of flaps called cusps or leaflets, is responsible for opening and closing during each heartbeat.

    In cases of aortic valve disease, the valve may undergo thickening and stiffening or fail to close properly, disrupting the normal flow of blood.


    Symptoms of aortic valve disease can vary from person to person, and some individuals may not experience noticeable symptoms for an extended period. Common symptoms of aortic valve disease may include:

    1. Chest pain or tightness.

    2. Dizziness.

    3. Fainting episodes.

    4. Fatigue after physical exertion or reduced tolerance for physical activity.

    5. Irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia).

    6. Shortness of breath, particularly during strenuous activities or while lying down.

    7. Reduced appetite is primarily observed in children with aortic valve stenosis.

    8. Inadequate weight gain is mainly observed in children with aortic valve stenosis.

Risk factors

    Numerous factors can heighten the risk of developing aortic valve disease, including:

  • Advancing age: With ageing, calcium deposits may accumulate on the aortic valve, making it stiffen and narrow.
  • Congenital heart defects: Certain individuals are born with abnormalities in their heart valves, such as missing, extra, or fused valve flaps, which can predispose them to aortic valve regurgitation.
  • Rheumatic fever: This complication stemming from strep throat can result in aortic stenosis, a form of heart valve disease. When heart valve disease is induced by rheumatic fever, it is termed rheumatic heart disease; otherwise, it is referred to as nonrheumatic heart disease.
  • Endocarditis: Infection-induced inflammation of the lining of the heart's chambers and valves, known as endocarditis, can inflict damage on the aortic valve.
  • History of chest radiation therapy: Certain cancer treatments involve radiation therapy to the chest, which may lead to heart valve disease. Symptoms of such disease may manifest years after the radiation therapy.
  • Other medical conditions: chronic kidney disease, lupus, and Marfan syndrome—a connective tissue disorder—can elevate the risk of developing aortic stenosis or regurgitation.

When to Seek Medical Attention:

    If you experience sudden chest pain, it is imperative to call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.

    Schedule a health checkup if you notice symptoms of aortic valve disease, such as shortness of breath, fatigue following physical activity, or irregular heartbeat sensations. In some cases, the initial signs of aortic valve disease may be linked to heart failure. Therefore, if you persistently experience fatigue that doesn't alleviate with rest, along with symptoms like shortness of breath and swollen ankles and feet—common indicators of heart failure—it is essential to undergo a health evaluation.

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