The aortic valve controls the flow of blood from your heart to the rest of your body by way of the large artery called the aorta. When this valve does not work properly, the heart must work harder to deliver blood to the body
Common Kinds of Valve Damage
Aortic valve problems can be a result of congenital abnormalities-abnormalities that are present at birth-or rheumatic fever, a childhood illness caused by a streptococcal infection. They can also be the result of calcium formation on the valve. There are two common kinds of aortic valve problems.
In aortic stenosis, the valve opening has narrowed, so that the left ventricle- the heart’s main pumping chamber-must work harder to move blood through it.
In aortic regurgitation, the valve doesn’t completely close between contractions, so that blood leaks back into the left ventricle. The blood flow to the body decreases and again the heart must work harder to offset the decreased blood flow.
Signs of Aortic Valve Problems
Aortic valve problems may cause no symptoms in the early stages. The condition is usually discovered during a routine examination. As valve problems worsen, they may cause weakness on exertion, breathlessness, chest pain and fainting spells.
A person with aortic valve problems is at risk for angina, congestive heart failure or bacterial endocarditis, an infection of the interior of the heart.
People with valve problems should take antibiotics before dental procedures or certain kinds of surgeries and instrument examinations, to prevent endocarditis.
If You Have Aortic Valve Problems
Most people with aortic valve problems can lead normal lives, though they may need to avoid strenuous physical activities. For severe symptoms, surgery to replace or reconstruct the valve can make a big difference in your life. Ask your doctor if surgery would be appropriate in your case. Follow your doctor’s recommendations on restricting activity and preparing for surgery or dental work.