The cardiovascular system plays an important role in human health. The main part of the cardiovascular system is the heart, along with blood. Blood is enriched with both oxygen and nutrients, which are then sent throughout the body with the help of the heart. Cardiovascular diseases are, however, very common in the global population. One study found that up to 21.3% of the population may have one or more cardiovascular diseases. In addition, risk factors for these diseases are also observed in a large percentage of the population.
Aortic stenosis is a type of cardiovascular condition that affects one of the main valves that are in the heart. The condition can cause serious complications, but there are treatment options available that can effectively improve the aortic valve’s symptoms and functionality. This article explores aortic stenosis, including its causes, symptoms, and treatment options.
What Is Aortic Stenosis?
The heart consists of multiple major valves that connect to essential arteries that lead to other body parts. Among these valves is the aortic valve, which sits at the heart’s left ventricle. This particular area is sometimes referred to as a chamber – specifically at the lower left region of the heart. The valve opens and closes automatically to pump blood to the aorta, the main artery that runs from the heart to the rest of the body.
In aortic stenosis, the aortic valve does not function properly. It may not close completely or only partly open with each heartbeat. This is generally due to narrowing the area where the valve is located. When aortic stenosis develops, it means blood flow will be adversely affected. Less blood can push through the aortic valve with each heartbeat.
To compensate, the heart generally starts to work harder. The goal here is for the heart to push a sufficient amount of blood through the aortic valve. Unfortunately, this causes strain on the heart muscle and can cause the surrounding area to become enlarged over time. In turn, the patient may experience several complications and even long-term damage. In severe cases, aortic stenosis can lead to death.
Symptoms Of Aortic Stenosis
The severity of aortic stenosis will significantly impact the symptoms a patient experiences. However, it is important to note that a mild case of aortic stenosis will often not result in noticeable symptoms. By the time symptoms start to appear, most people will already have a narrowed aortic valve. It is still crucial for individuals to understand the symptoms they should look out for.
Some of the symptoms that have been associated with aortic stenosis include:
● A heart murmur is often the sign that leads to the diagnosis of the condition. This presents as an abnormality in the patient’s heartbeat.
● Angina, a painful feeling in the chest, can also be a symptom.
● Some people experience tightness in their chest, which worsens with physical activity.
● Shortness of breath is also common in people with aortic stenosis. Excessive breathing problems may develop after physical exercise.
● Many people also find that they experience fatigue regularly.
● Heart palpitations can develop, where the heart beats rapidly.
● In some cases, people also report feeling dizzy when they are active. The dizziness can sometimes lead to fainting.
It is also important to note that additional symptoms have been reported in cases where kids experience aortic stenosis. For example, parents may find that their kid does not eat well. The child may also fail to put on weight, resulting in complications associated with being underweight.
Aortic Stenosis Causes
When looking at what can cause aortic stenosis, it is important to understand there are direct elements that result in the disease and contributing risk factors.
The most common causes of aortic stenosis include congenital disabilities that affect the heart, a buildup of calcium on the aortic valve, and rheumatic fever. For example, suppose a newborn baby has a congenital heart defect that affects the aortic valve. In that case, it may result in stenosis later in life – sometimes during childhood, but often problems only start to develop once they reach the age of adulthood.
While calcium is an essential mineral for bone health and several other functions, accumulating the mineral on the aortic valve can result in complications. This is referred to as aortic valve calcification. In cases where calcium deposits are a factor behind aortic stenosis, the diagnosis often only happens when the patient is older than 70 years.
Rheumatic fever is actually a complication of an infectious disease known as strep throat. When rheumatic fever develops as a complication, it causes scar tissue on the aortic valve. The scar tissue can then cause problems with the opening and closing of the aortic valve.
Certain risk factors have also been identified. Age is considered a significant risk factor. The majority of aortic stenosis cases are found among elderly individuals. In addition, being born with a congenital heart defect will also increase the risk of developing aortic stenosis.
Risk factors for cardiovascular disease also affect the likelihood of aortic stenosis. This includes hypertension, high cholesterol levels, and diabetes. In addition, people with chronic kidney disease and recurrent infections that affect their hearts also find themselves at a greater risk for this condition.
The treatment options provided to a patient largely depend on the severity of the condition. The doctor first needs to have tests run on the patient to understand the severity of the aortic stenosis and determine the possible causes behind the condition. This also assists the doctor in developing an effective treatment plan.
There are cases where the patient needs to undergo an aortic valve replacement procedure. This is a surgical procedure. The surgeon will first remove the aortic valve from the heart then replace it with a medical device that will serve the same purpose. There are alternatives to the mechanical devices used to replace the valve. Biological tissue valves have become a common option when patients need to undergo an aortic valve replacement. Careful monitoring and regular checkups are required following this process. This will ensure the doctor can detect any issues caused by the surgical procedure and ensure the efficacy of the replacement valve that has been added.
Aortic stenosis affects the valve situated at the left ventricle of the heart. The condition affects the valve in the area, which can cause problems with blood circulation. This can put more strain on the heart, leading to damage in the long term. Individuals must understand both the causes and symptoms. With early treatment, the chances of recovering and preventing severe complications can be significantly improved. Multiple treatments can be considered, but in the end, it depends on the severity of the condition upon diagnosis.