Aortic valve stenosis occurs when the aortic valve narrows. The aortic valve lets the blood flow from the lower left chamber of the heart into the aorta and to the body. Stenosis is meant to prevent the valve from opening properly, pushing the heart to work harder to pump blood through the valve. This leads to the buildup of pressure in the left ventricle and thickens the heart muscle. While the heart can make up for stenosis and the extra pressure for a long time, it cannot keep up the extra effort of pumping through the narrowed valve. This can result in heart failure.
Causes of Aortic Valve Stenosis
Aortic valve stenosis can result from the buildup of calcium on the aortic valve. When you age, calcium can build up on the valve and make it hard and thick. Such buildup takes place over time, so symptoms often do not appear until after age 65. Also, stenosis can happen when a person is born with a heart defect. Rheumatic fever is an infection that can damage the valve, hence, cause stenosis.
Symptoms of Aortic Valve Stenosis
This condition is a slow process. For a lot of years, the person will not feel any symptoms. However, at some point, their valve may become so narrow that they begin to have issues. Usually, symptoms are brought on by exercise as the heart needs to work harder. When the stenosis gets worse, the patient will have symptoms like chest pain, dizziness, shortness of breath, racing heartbeat, and others. When a person begins to notice any symptoms, they should visit their doctor immediately. The doctor may recommend transcatheter aortic valve replacement or TAVR. When symptoms occur, the condition might be already serious. In fact, the occurrence of symptoms can result in sudden death.
Treatment for Aortic Valve Stenosis
Those who don’t experience any symptoms and have mild aortic valve stenosis should see their doctor for a regular heart check. Surgery will only be necessary when the condition is severe. Those who have serious stenosis may need a valve replacement that can be done with open-heart surgery or a minimally invasive procedure. Older adults, pregnant women, young children may have to undergo another procedure known as balloon valvuloplasty to enlarge the opening of the valve. Their doctor may recommend lifestyle changes to keep their heart healthy. Patients may be advised to stop smoking, follow a heart-healthy diet, stay physically active, and maintain a healthy weight.