The heart is responsible for pumping blood around the body. It is divided into two halves, and each half has a ventricle and an atrium. In each heart half there are also valves that ensure the blood is pumped in one direction, namely the correct direction for that side of the heart. A leaky valve, essentially, is when the valve cannot shut completely in order to ensure this is the case. The heart then works harder to pump the blood around the body. Detrimental consequences may follow, including an enlarged heart and accumulation of fluid in other parts of the body, including the lungs.
The symptoms of a leaky valve include:
- Coughing, especially when laying down
- Chest pain
- Frequent urination
- Swollen feet or ankles
- Heart murmur
- Heart palpitations
The diagnosis may me made in two ways: first, the physician might make an ultrasound of the heart, called an echocardiography, in which a doctor may see whether the heart is beating properly. Another method is cardiac catheterisation, in which the patient is injected with a fluid before taking an x-ray, in which the doctor may see how severe the leaky valve is. An MRI scan may also be used to diagnose the disorder.
Many different medications may be used to treat a leaky valve, including those that steady the heart’s beat, allow it to work less harder. In the most serious cases a patient may need to undergo surgery to fix the valve.
Celebrities who have been diagnosed with a leaky valve include Elizabeth Taylor and Jennie Garth.
Image: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Human_healthy_pumping_heart_en.svgTags: heart surgery