Heart conditions and other disorders, age-related changes, rheumatic fever, and infections can cause acquired heart valve disease. These factors change the shape or flexibility of once-normal valves and/or its support structure.
The cause of congenital heart valve defects isn't known. These defects occur before birth as the heart is forming. Congenital heart valve defects can occur alone or with other types of congenital heart defects.
Heart Conditions and Other Disorders
Heart valves and their support structure can be stretched and distorted by:
- Damage and scar tissue due to a heart attack or injury to the heart.
- Advanced high blood pressure and heart failure. These conditions can enlarge the heart or the main arteries.
Men older than 65 and women older than 75 are prone to developing calcium and other deposits on their heart valves. These deposits stiffen and thicken the valve flaps and limit blood flow (stenosis).
Some people have heart valve disease due to untreated strep throat or other infections with strep bacteria, which progress to rheumatic fever.
When the body tries to fight the strep infection, one or more heart valves may be damaged or scarred in the process. The aortic and mitral valves are most often affected. Symptoms due to heart valve damage often don't appear until many years after recovery from rheumatic fever.
Common germs that enter through the bloodstream and get carried to the heart can sometimes infect the inner surface of the heart, including the heart valves. This rare, but sometimes life-threatening infection is called endocarditis.
The germs can enter the bloodstream through needles, syringes, or other medical devices and through breaks in the skin or gums. Usually the body's defenses fight off the germs and no infection occurs. Sometimes these defenses fail, which leads to endocarditis.limit blood flow.
Endocarditis usually develop in people who already have abnormal blood flow through a heart valve. The abnormal blood flow causes turbulence which allows for blood clots to form on the surface of the valve. The blood clots make it easier for germs to attach to and infect the valve.
Endocarditis can worsen existing heart valve disease.
This answer from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute has been reviewed and/or edited by Dr. William D.