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.

Valve damage

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
  • dizziness
  • swollen ankles, feet or abdomen.


If your heart valves become damaged, you may be at risk of getting endocarditis, although this is quite rare. 

Find out more heart valve surgery, or other the other heart services we provide. 

Heart valve surgery

Valve problems can be treated through surgical procedures. The valves that most commonly need surgery are the aortic and mitral valves.

Clinical lead

Professor John Pepper

Clinic location

Outpatients department (Outpatients East), Fulham wing/South Block, Fulham Road

Booking appointments

Tel: +44 (0)207 351 8011 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm)

Clinical nurse specialists

Tel: +44 (0)207 351 8497 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm)