“What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Heart Valve Problems?” Asks Donna
I just received an interesting email from Donna about the signs and symptoms of heart valve problems.
Donna writes, “Adam – I was diagnosed with moderate mitral regurgitation over five years ago. Since then, I have annual check-ups to make sure the valve doesn’t get any worse. The strange part is that I’ve had no symptoms since diagnosis. Yesterday, however, I lost my breath while walking up a hill during my weekly hike. As I’m 63-years young, I’m curious to know if this is a sign or symptom that my heart valve problem is getting worse. Any thoughts? Donna”
Like Donna, I was primarily asymptomatic prior to my double heart valve surgery. I only experienced one symptom related to my problematic heart valve disorder. That said, it is critical for all patients to continuously monitor their heart valve problems through annual echocardiograms. While heart valve problems can be identified via stethoscopes, the echocardiogram is the medical standard for evaluating valve disease over time.
In addition to echocardiograms, there are several signs and symptoms that a patient can continuously “look out for” in between yearly visits to the cardiologist. According to The Cleveland Clinic, here are some of the most common signs and symptoms of valve problems:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty catching your breath. You may notice this most when your are active (doing your normal daily activities) or when you lie down flat in bed. You may need to sleep propped up on a few pillows to breathe easier.
- Heart palpitations. This may feel like a rapid heart rhythm, irregular heart beats, skipped beats or a flip-flop feeling in your chest.
- Swelling of your ankles, feet or abdomen. This is called edema. Swelling may occur in your belly, which may cause you to feel bloated.
- Weakness or dizziness. You may feel too weak to carry out your normal daily activities. Dizziness can also occur, and in some cases, passing out may be a symptom.
- Quick weight gain. A weight gain of two or three pounds in one day is possible.
- Discomfort in your chest. This may feel like a pressure or weight in the chest with activity or going out in cold air.
If you notice an elevation of these signs and symptoms of heart valve problems (e.g. aortic stenosis or mitral regurgitation), please contact your cardiologist. As we have previously discussed, it is critical for you or your caregivers to be proactive and prevent significant worsening of your valve disorder.
So you know, I missed one annual echocardiogram. During that time, my aortic stenosis shifted from moderate-to-severe status and my heart began to dilate (enlarge). Luckily, after surgery, my heart is performing well and no longer dilated. But, please do not let this happen to you!
I hope this helps explain more about the signs and symptoms of heart valve problems.
Keep on tickin!
Adam Pick is a patient, author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery and the founder of HeartValveSurgery.com.