The valves in your heart are small, but very important. They control how blood flows into and out of the heart. If they don’t work properly, it will be difficult for your heart to function as it should and your health may suffer. Some heart valve problems are congenital (present at birth), some are caused by infection, and some just develop for no apparent reason. Because heart valve problems are most common in older people, some experts think age is a factor.
Heart valve problems are one of the things your doctor is looking for when he or she listens to your chest with a stethoscope. A murmur, like a swishing sound, is a common tip-off that a patient may have a heart valve defect. In cases where heart valve changes have occurred over time, symptoms like fatigue or shortness of breath may be the first clue that something is amiss.
“Treatment of heart valve disease has changed dramatically over the last 10 years. Multidisciplinary approaches to the diagnosis and management of valve disease aim to offer the best possible treatment for each patient. This includes transcatheter treatment, minimally invasive or “key-hole” surgery, as well as standard open heart operations for valve repair or valve replacement,” says Arnar Geirsson, MD, chief of Yale Medicine Cardiac Surgery.