The symptoms of a leaky heart valve can include rapid heartbeat, fatigue, lightheadedness and palpitations, WebMD says. In severe cases, a leaky heart valve can cause fluid retention in the body, especially the legs, and shortness of breath. These severe symptoms closely resemble the symptoms of congestive heart failure, and can be treated with some of the same medications. Many people with leaky heart valves experience no symptoms, and people can be healthy with slightly leaky heart valves.
Besides any symptoms that may be present, a leaky heart valve can sometimes be detected by a heart murmur or other unusual sounds heard through a stethoscope, states WebMD. An ultrasound of the heart, also known as an echocardiogram, can also reveal the presence of a leaky heart valve. Doctors use an echocardiogram and a physical examination to determine the severity of the leaky heart valve. In cases where the leaking of the heart valve is minor, observation over time is usually sufficient treatment.
There are four valves in the heart, and any one can be leaky, explains WebMD. The symptoms caused by a leaky heart valve can vary by which valve is affected, as do the treatments. In the most severe cases, surgery to either repair or replace the valve is often required.