The prognosis for a leaky heart valve depends on many factors, including which of the four heart valves is leaking, but many patients experience no symptoms or minor symptoms. The seriousness of the condition depends on how much it interferes with blood circulation in the heart, according to WebMD.
Some leaking heart valves cause the heart to work harder than normal, says the American Heart Association. The most common type of heart valve problem is mitral regurgitation, which can develop suddenly or over many years. If the leak puts a strain on the heart, it may require surgery to repair or replace the valve.
Signs of mitral valve regurgitation include a heart murmur, shortness of breath with exercise or when lying down and heart palpitations, according to Mayo Clinic. It also sometimes leads to swelling of the legs. When the symptoms appear slowly, the doctor often discovers the murmur during a routine exam. If the valve leak occurs suddenly, severe symptoms may occur quickly.
For conditions that do not require surgery, the doctor treats the underlying condition causing the leak, according to MedlinePlus. Blood pressure medication helps to relieve the strain on the heart. Diuretics help to remove excess fluid from the lungs. The doctor also may prescribe blood thinners to reduce the risk of blood clots if the patient develops an abnormal heart rhythm known as atrial fibrillation. Other medications help to regulate the heartbeat.