Valvular heart disease refers to several disorders and diseases of the heart valves, which regulate the flow of blood through the chambers of the heart.
The human heart consists of four chambers-two upper chambers (the atria) and two lower chambers (the ventricles) that are responsible for pumping blood. The heart valves are like one-way doors, which open and close with each beat of the heart, controlling the blood flow from one chamber to the next. Each of these valves is made up of a few thin folds of tissue. When functioning correctly, they keep blood from flowing backward into a chamber when closed.
Patients with valvular heart disease have a malfunction of one or more of these valves. There are several types of valvular heart diseases with distinct symptoms and treatments.
Problems with heart valves may occur as a result of infection, degeneration, or congenital abnormality. The most common infections are rheumatic fever and infective endocarditis.
Specific types of valvular heart disease are diagnosed using electrocardiography, echocardiography, certain x-ray studies, and/or cardiac catheterization.