Causes of Valve Disease

Valve disease can be caused by any number of things such as other heart conditions, age-related changes and infection. Occasionally, people are born with abnormal valves that over the course of time wear out or scar. Valves can also be stretched or distorted by a heart attack, high blood pressure, aneurysms and diseases of the aorta.

Degenerative disease most commonly affects the mitral valve. Age-related changes can cause improper valve movement that is commonly known as mitral valve prolapse. Over time, the floppy valve causes leakage. This degenerative condition effects 4 to 5 percent of the general population but is more common in woman.

Calcification due to aging causes a hardening, thickening and narrowing of the valves. The aortic valve is affected the most.

Coronary artery disease restricts blood flow to the heart muscle through a build-up of plaque in the arteries. Plaque can also build-up inside the heart and affect the valves.

Rheumatic fever is caused by an untreated bacterial infection, usually Strep. throat. Luckily, the introduction of antibiotics to treat this infection has dramatically reduced this infection and its affect on the heart valves. The infection usually occurs in children, but the heart problems associated with it may not be seen for up to 40 years later. At the time of infection, the heart valves become inflamed; the leaflets stick together and become scarred, rigid, thickened and shortened. This can lead to mitral valve regurgitation later in life.

Bacterial endocarditis can damage the valves through the infectious process. Bacteria enter the bloodstream and attack the heart valves causing growths and holes in the valves and scarring. This can lead to leaky valves.

Congenital heart defects are types of malformations of the heart that are present at birth and can include an absence of one or more valves.

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