What happens if a valve in your heart leaks?


Quick Answer

When a heart valve leaks, some of the blood being pumped by the heart leaks backward through the valve in a process known as valve regurgitation, as stated by WebMD. Although many healthy individuals have slightly leaky heart valves, severe cases may impair forward blood flow.

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Full Answer

Any one of the four heart valves, including the aortic valve, the mitral valve, the tricuspid valve and the pulmonary valve, can become leaky, as confirmed by WebMD. These leaks often cause no symptoms, but severe leaks may cause signs of congestive heart failure, such as leg swelling or shortness of breath that becomes worse while exerting energy or lying down. Other leaky valve symptoms may include fatigue, heart palpitations, lightheadedness and rapid heart beat.

A doctor generally diagnoses a leaky heart valve by listening for abnormal sounds using a stethoscope or looking at the results of an ultrasound, according to WebMD. Many individuals with a leaky aortic valve only require observation over time, but vasodilators may be used to relieve symptoms. Mitral valve leaks generally require no treatment, and medications are generally not effective in treating tricuspid valve leaks. Leaky pulmonary valves are normally treated by addressing the underlying conditions. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to repair the aortic, mitral or tricuspid valve.

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