If you have heart valve disease, you may have no warning signs. Additionally, heart valve symptoms are not a reliable indicator of how serious your condition may be. You may have no symptoms but need prompt treatment. Or you may have severe symptoms, but your valve problem may be minor.
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The symptoms of a heart attack and valvular heart disease can be similar, but the problems are different. Learn more from Dr. James B. Hermiller, The Care Group at The Heart Center Indianapolis.
Because the severity of symptoms may or may not match the severity of the disease, it is important to see a doctor for diagnosis if you experience symptoms of heart valve disease. And if you experience an increase in symptoms, it is critical that you ask to see your doctor immediately.
Symptoms of heart valve disease include the following:
- Shortness of breath and/or difficulty catching your breath. This can occur during exertion, during normal daily activities or while lying in bed.
- Weakness or dizziness. Passing out or fainting may also indicate valve disease.
- Chest discomfort. Heart valve disease patients may experience chest discomfort, especially when they are active or step out into the cold.
- Heart palpitations. This feels like a fast or irregular heartbeat or like your heart is flip-flopping.
- Swollen ankles and feet or swelling in the abdomen, possibly with a bloated feeling in your stomach. Your doctor may refer to the swelling as edema.
- Fast weight gain. A two- or three-pound gain in a day is possible.
If advanced heart valve disease is not treated, it can lead to serious health problems:
- Heart failure. This condition describes when the heart can no longer pump blood the way it should, because it cannot fill with enough blood or it lacks the pumping power to send blood to the rest of the body. Symptoms of heart failure include the following: fatigue; reduced appetite; dry, hacking cough, often worse when lying down; shortness of breath, especially at night; fainting; and weight gain and or swelling of the feet, ankles and abdomen.
- Stroke. During a stroke, blood flow to the brain is interrupted, either by a blood clot or by a break in a vessel carrying blood to the brain, resulting in brain damage or death.
- Blood clots. When blood forms a clot, it clumps as it hardens from a liquid to a solid. Blood clots can restrict or block the flow of blood to tissues, resulting in tissue damage or death.
- Death due to sudden cardiac arrest. When the heart stops beating suddenly and unexpectedly, it is called cardiac arrest. Death usually occurs if sudden cardiac arrest is not treated within minutes.