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Frequently asked questions
about heart valve disease

About Heart Valve Disease

What is heart valve disease?

Your heart has 4 valves that help blood flow through your body. As you get older, you can develop heart valve disease (HVD) and one or more of your valves may stop working as well, which makes it harder for your heart to pump blood through your body. HVD affects millions of people, with roughly 25,000 deaths in the U.S. each year.

How is heart valve disease different from heart disease?

Heart disease, also known as “cardiovascular disease,” is a general term for all heart conditions. Heart valve disease is a specific condition that many people aren’t aware of, which is why it’s so important to talk to your doctor if you have symptoms or are over 65.

Does heart valve disease get worse over time?

Yes, heart valve disease is a progressive disease, which means it can get worse over time and even lead to death if left untreated. For example, if you’re diagnosed with mild aortic stenosis, it could become moderate or even severe and require treatment.

That’s why it’s so important to have routine echocardiograms and talk with your doctor about treatment options.

Is there more than one type of heart valve disease?

There are many types of heart valve disease (HVD), including stenosis, regurgitation (insufficiency), and atresia. All 4 heart valves (aortic, mitral, tricuspid, and pulmonary) can be affected by HVD.

What is valve stenosis?

Valve stenosis is the abnormal narrowing of the valve, which makes it stiff. This limits blood flow and makes your heart work harder. Learn more about valve stenosis, a common type of heart valve disease.

What is valve regurgitation?

Valve regurgitation happens when your valve’s leaflets don’t close all the way. Some blood may flow backward through your valve, making your heart work harder. Learn more about valve regurgitation, another common type of heart valve disease.

Understanding the Risk of Heart Valve Disease

What are the symptoms of heart valve disease?

Lightheaded, faint, or dizzy feelings

Irregular heartbeat, heart flutter, or chest pains

Shortness of breath after light activity or while lying down

Tiredness, even after plenty of sleep

Edema (swelling of the ankles and feet)

Not feeling like themselves (missing out on daily activities)

How do I know if I have heart valve disease?

There are many different tests to check for heart valve disease, but one of the most accurate ways is with an echocardiogram, a painless heart ultrasound. Use our discussion guide or telehealth guide to ask your doctor about symptoms, risk factors, and getting tested.

What can put me at risk of heart valve disease?

There’s no one cause of heart valve disease, but it’s important to know what can put you at risk:

  • Older age⁠—people 65 and older are at a significantly higher risk
  • Family history of heart disease or heart valve disease
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Personal history of heart conditions or heart infections
  • High blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and other heart disease risk factors
  • Heart conditions since birth (congenital heart disease)

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Diagnosis and Treatment of Heart Valve Disease

How do I talk to my doctor about heart valve disease?

  1. Yellow speech bubble icon on a blue background.

    Share all of your symptoms, even if you mentioned them to your doctor before.

  2. Yellow exclamation mark on a blue background.

    Use our discussion guide or telehealth guide and make the most of your appointment.

Ask your doctor about an echocardiogram. It’s one of the most accurate ways to see if you have heart valve disease.

What’s an echocardiogram and how is it performed?

An echocardiogram is one of the most accurate ways for your doctor to see if you have heart valve disease. An “echo” is a painless test that takes as little as 20 minutes and uses sound waves to take a picture of your heart. After a sonographer finishes your echo, you’ll be able to see your heart patterns on a video screen, and your doctor or cardiologist will walk you through your results.

How often should I get an echocardiogram?

If you’ve had an echocardiogram before and weren’t diagnosed with heart valve disease, ask your doctor if it’s an appropriate time to test again. If you’ve already been diagnosed, it’s still important to get an echocardiogram every so often since heart valve disease gets worse over time. How often should diagnosed patients get an echocardiogram?

Severity:Mild Every 3 to 5 years
Severity:Moderate Every 1 to 2 years
Severity:Severe Seek treatment options for valve replacement

What are treatment options?

There’s no way to prevent heart valve disease, but there are treatment options including transcatheter procedures, open heart surgery, and medical management.

Read more about your options and talk with your doctor to see which is right for you.

How can I help people with heart valve disease?

Helping people with heart valve disease is as easy as reaching out. Talk with your friends and family to raise awareness and help them recognize the symptoms.

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Heart Valve Disease and Other Illnesses

What symptoms do heart valve disease and other illnesses have in common?

Heart valve disease symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pains
  • Tiredness and fatigue

Have you talked to your doctor about heart valve disease?

Use these tools to help start a conversation with your doctor or to find a location for a heart screening.

Discussion Guide

Our full discussion guide can help you talk about heart valve disease and your symptoms with your doctor during in-person appointments.

Download our discussion guide

Find a Doctor

Use this Healthgrades® tool to find a doctor in your area who can screen your heart for heart valve disease.

Find a Doctor

Edwards Lifesciences does not endorse or recommend any particular physician and search results do not include a comprehensive list of doctors in your area.

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