Heart valve disease results from damage to the valves of the heart. Heart valves have tissue leaflets which open and close with each heartbeat to control the direction and flow of blood through the heart. When the leaflets or associated structures become damaged, or the valve opening becomes compromised, blood flow is restricted, or the valve becomes leaky. This causes strain on the heart as it attempts to compensate.
Causes of heart valve disease are mostly related to degenerative change due to aging, and the illness often affects people over the age of 65. Other risk factors are common to cardiovascular diseases in general and include obesity, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Heart valve disease is sometimes congenital and the presence of other conditions (e.g., coronary heart disease, cardiomyopathy, endocarditis infection or rheumatic fever) may also cause heart valve disease.
There are several types of heart valve disease. These are defined based on which of the four heart valves (aortic, mitral, pulmonary, or tricuspid) is damaged or malfunctioning and whether it is a case of stenosis, which is a narrowing of the valve space, or regurgitation, which occurs because of improper closure of the leaflets and results in blood leaking backwards into the heart chamber. The most common forms of heart valve disease are aortic stenosis and mitral valve regurgitation, but recent data suggests that tricuspid valve disease is also on the rise.