What are the symptoms of a damaged heart valve?

The symptoms of a damaged heart valve include chest pain, dizziness, and swelling in the legs.

Dr. Timothy R. Malinowski, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Heart valves can become “damaged” or develop abnormal function for several reasons. Abnormal valve function generally occurs in one of two forms: valve stenosis, which is scarring and narrowing of the valve opening, or regurgitation, which is leakage of the valve that allows blood flow in both directions across the valve rather than the normal one direction. Some people are born with structurally abnormal valves and these valves “wear out” or develop abnormal function at a faster rate than structurally normal valves. A common reason for abnormal valve function is slow deterioration of the valve tissue with aging which results in scarring, thickening, and stiffening of the valve. If the heart becomes enlarged, valve leaflets can pull apart allowing for regurgitation. Infection can damage a heart valve in many ways and result in either stenosis or regurgitation.

Common symptoms caused by abnormal heart valve function include chest pain, dizziness, passing out, shortness of breath, swelling of the legs, progressive fatigue, and lack of energy. Abnormal heart valve function can also cause abnormal heart rhythms, which can feel like a racing, pounding, or fluttering of the heart. Both valve stenosis and regurgitation can cause these symptoms.

The contents of this website are for informational purposes only and are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Nor does the contents of this website constitute the establishment of a physician patient or therapeutic relationship. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

The heart is a pump made of muscle tissue. The heart has four pumping chambers: two upper chambers, called atria, and two lower chambers, called ventricles. In order to keep the blood flowing forward during its journey through the heart, there are valves between each of the heart's pumping chambers. If the heart valve(s) becomes damaged or diseased, a person may experience the following symptoms:

  • dizziness
  • chest pain
  • breathing difficulties
  • palpitations
  • edema (swelling) of the feet, ankles, or abdomen
  • rapid weight gain due to fluid retention

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.