Most people experience symptoms of heart disease in the form of shortness of breath. Some people even experience angina symptoms like chest pain upon physical exertion. However, experiencing irregular heartbeat along with swelling in the ankles is a sign of heart valve disease and needs further evaluation.
Heart valve disease
Heart valve disease occurs when one or more of the four valves of the heart has dysfunction. Heart valve disease generally causes regurgitation, which means blood flows backward instead of the direction it has to flow.
Heart valve disease even results in stenosis which leads to narrowing of the valves due to thickening and stiffening of the heart valve. In other cases, it leads to atresia, which means that there is an abnormal absence or narrowing of the passage in the heart valve.
While some heart valve diseases do not show up any symptoms, people with diabetes, high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, obesity, and smoking are at an increased risk of getting heart valve diseases.
Diagnosis of heart valve disease
As soon as a person exhibits any symptoms of heart valve disease, doctors conduct a complete physical examination along with past medical history.
Doctors use a stethoscope in order to listen to unusual sounds of the heart. Presence of heart murmur is an indicator of heart valve disease. Apart from auscultation with a stethoscope, doctors look for swelling in the ankle and other areas which is an indicator of fluid buildup.
Other diagnostic tests
When these tests are positive, further investigations are prescribed. These include:
- Chest X-ray
- Cardiac catheterization
- Stress test
- Cardiac MRI
Echocardiography is one of the major tests that are done to detect heart problems like heart valve disease. However before an echo, tests like chest x-ray and EKG (electrocardiogram) are done to look for signs of heart valve disease. If such signs are present, an echocardiography is done to confirm diagnosis.
Other tests like cardiac catheterization, cardiac MRI, and others are done in order to ascertain the severity of the heart valve disease. Depending upon the extent of valve damage, heart disease treatment is planned.