Heart valve leakage occurs when one of the four valves of the heart fails to close properly. According to the NIH, one of the primary signs of heart valve disease is a heart murmur. Doctors are able to hear the murmur with a stethoscope. Often a doctor detects the murmur years before the heart valve begins to cause significant problems for the individual.
The NIH indicates common symptoms of heart valve leakage include shortness of breath, fatigue and swelling of the feet, ankles, chest or abdomen. The individual may experience fluttering or racing of the heart. Upon exertion, he sometimes experiences chest pain.
Doctors use diagnostic tests to determine heart valve leakage. The echocardiogram is the main test used in confirming the patient has heart valve leakage; however, the doctor often orders other heart tests before the Echo, including an electrocardiogram or a chest x-ray. According to the NIH, patients diagnosed with heart valve leakage often undergo further testing after diagnosis to determine the extent of the problem. These tests, such as the stress test or the cardiac catheterization, help the doctor determine an appropriate treatment plan.
As of 2014, the NIH indicates there are no medications to cure heart valve leakage. Doctors often recommend lifestyle changes to reduce further injury to the leaking valve, which reduce the chances of it causing problems for many years. If necessary, the patient's doctor may recommend surgery to repair or replace the leaking valve.