Heart valves work by making sure that blood flows in only one direction through your heart. When a heart valve is damaged, it affects how blood and oxygen is pumped through your heart and through your body.
A heart valve is damaged when it becomes narrow (known as stenosis), which can reduce or slow down blood flow. It is also damaged when a leak (known as incompetence) forms, which can sometimes allow blood to flow backwards through the valve (regurgitation).
Some reasons a valve may be damaged is because a person:
- was born with valve problems (congenital)
- developed a damaged valve later in life
- had rheumatic fever during childhood
- had an infection of the valve.
Signs of heart valve damage
Common symptoms of heart valve damage include:
- chest pain or palpitations
- shortness of breath and finding it difficult to do anything of an average fitness level
- swollen ankles, feet or abdomen.
If your heart valves become damaged, you may be at risk of getting endocarditis, although this is quite rare.
Outpatients department (Outpatients East), Fulham wing/South Block, Fulham Road
Tel: +44 (0)207 351 8011 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm)
Clinical nurse specialists
Tel: +44 (0)207 351 8497 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm)