What is Aortic Valve Disease?

There are four valves or gateways inside the heart. One of them is your aortic valve. This is the valve between the main pumping chamber of your heart (left ventricle) and the main artery to your body (aorta).

When your heart beats, this valve acts like a one-way door. It lets blood flow in from one chamber or vessel to another, and then closes to prevent the blood from backing up. This keeps blood moving forward through the heart and into the body and lungs.

If you have aortic valve disease, this valve doesn't work properly.

Two Types of Aortic Valve Disease

1) Aortic stenosis

What it is. Aortic stenosis means your aortic valve has a problem opening. The left ventricle has to work harder to push the blood through the valve. In some cases, this extra work will make the muscle of the ventricle thicken. In time, the extra work can tire the heart and cause the heart muscle to weaken. This type of stenosis can quickly get worse.

Possible causes. Deposits can form on the aortic valve as you get older. These deposits make the valve stiff and hard to open. In some cases, you may have been born with a problem aortic valve. Or, your aortic valve may have been damaged by rheumatic fever or a heart infection.

Treatment. In many cases, treatment won’t be needed unless you have symptoms. If you do have symptoms, medications may help relieve them. If the stenosis is severe, your doctor may recommend surgery to replace the valve, even if you don’t have symptoms.

2) Aortic insufficiency

What it is. Aortic insufficiency means your aortic valve has problems closing. Blood leaks back through the valve. Extra blood may cause the ventricle (pumping chamber) to stretch. A stretched ventricle doesn’t squeeze as well. In time, the heart won’t move blood the way it should.

Possible causes. It may be a condition present at birth or may have been damaged by illness or infection.

Treatment. Your doctor may prescribe medications that can make it easier for the heart to move your blood. To treat severe insufficiency, heart valve surgery may be suggested, especially if you develop symptoms.