What happens if a heart valve leaking

When we are talking about heart health, we can name a wide range of heart diseases that can affect our quality of life. One of the most common types is the leaking of the heart valves. The heart valves work as a gate in the heart which only allows the blood to flow in one direction.


There are 4 types of heart valves namely:


  • Tricuspid valve: only allows blood to flow from right atrium to right ventricle
  • Pulmonic valve: only allows blood to flow from right ventricle to pulmonary artery
  • Mitral valve: only allows blood to flow from the left atrium to left ventricle
  • Aortic valve: only allows blood to flow from left ventricle to aorta


A heart valve is considered to leak when the patient is going through or has any kind of pathology that might alter the structure of the valves which enables the blood to flow back in the opposite direction. The structural change is known as valve regurgitation (insufficiency), where the valve cannot close properly after the blood is pumped through it during heart contraction. This leads to the backflow of the pumped blood. The most common valve involved is the mitral valve which causes the backflow of blood from the left ventricle into the left atrium.


Below are some of the reasons that can cause the structural changes of the valve:


  • Rheumatic fever
  • Infective endocarditis
  • Congenital heart diseases
  • Coronary heart diseases
  • Trauma


What happens if a heart valve is leaking?


There are a few main symptoms that can happen when you have leakage on your heart valve. You need to get yourself checked if you found that you have these symptoms:


  1. Fatigue / general weaknesses


The main function of blood is to carry oxygen to different parts of our body. When the valve is leaking, the volume of blood that is pumped out of the heart is reduced which causes lack of oxygen delivery to the cells in our muscles. The muscle’s cells require oxygen in order to produce energy for daily physical activities. Hence, this leakage will make our body feel tired and fatigued for the entire day.


  1. Dyspnea (shortness of breath)


When regurgitation occurs, the blood accumulates in the heart chambers in large quantities. Over time, the blood will also start to accumulate in the lungs’ cavity. This will cause some disturbances in the gas exchange mechanism that leads to dyspnea (shortness of breath) where the lungs are gasping for more air. This patient will feel tightness on the chest and it is difficult to take a deep breath.


  1. Palpitations


You will feel palpitations due to the increase of the heart’s activity in order to pump the accumulated blood out of its chambers. In this situation, the patient will feel like their heart skipped a beat or is beating too fast. If this situation is not managed accordingly, the heart rhythm will be affected (arrhythmia) which can be a fatal condition depending on its severity.


  1. Edema


Edema is always known as swelling by most people. This condition happens due to the stagnation of blood usually on their lower extremities as a result of the heart’s inability to pump the blood out of its chambers. The blood cannot circulate into the heart chambers from the extremities unless its contents are reduced. Edema also can be an early indication for heart failure which is a consequence of heart valve leakage.


Other than that, a patient with heart valve leakage might experience other additional symptoms which include headache, nausea, chest pain and anxiety. You can expect these screenings to be done if you are suspected to have heart valve leakage:


  • General blood analysis
  • Auscultation
  • Electrocardiography
  • Chest X-ray
  • Echocardiography


The complications that might happen if you leave a leaking heart valve untreated are congestive heart failure, pulmonary embolism and cardiomyopathy.


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