The heart is divided in four chambers, the two upper atrium and two lower ventricles. Aorta is the main artery which is connected with the left ventricle. It carries oxygenated blood from the left ventricle to supply all the body parts. There are valves between the atrium and ventricles and also between the aorta and left ventricle.
Aortic valve stenosis is a defect in aortic valve. In this condition there is narrowing of aortic valve. As a result it does not open as it should be normally. Due to the stenosis of aortic valve the left ventricle has to pump harder to push the blood into the aorta.
The defect leads to compromise in circulation of oxygenated blood to rest of the body. Over a period of time the heart muscles become weak and enlarge in size. If left untreated aortic stenosis can lead to left ventricular failure.
What Are The Causes Of Aortic Valve Stenosis?
Infants, children as well as adults all can suffer from aortic valve stenosis. Men are affected more than women. At least 1 in 1000 people suffers from aortic stenosis. It can be congenital, or people who have past history of rheumatic fever. In some cases the defect is related to growing age.
Congenital cause: Aortic valve stenosis can be congenital. It means the defect can be present since birth. The valve consists of three triangular flaps known as leaflets. Some children are born with only one or two leaflets. In some children the leaflets do not open properly as they become thick and in few cases the flaps are not separated. The defect may not manifest any symptoms in early childhood. But as the child grows into adolescence he can suffer from various symptoms of aortic valve deformity.
Rheumatic fever: One of the major causes of aortic valve stenosis in young adults and middle aged persons is rheumatic fever. Rheumatic fever is caused due to streptococcal infection in throat. It is caused by streptococcal bacteria. Several body organs are affected in rheumatic fever including aortic valve. Streptococcus bacteria can spread to the aortic valve and damage the leaflets leading to scar and narrowing.
Aortic valve calcification: Aortic valve can narrow due to calcification. Calcium is present in blood. Deposits of calcium can get accumulated on the valve as a person ages. Usually it occurs in people born with two leaflets. Deposits of calcium stiffen the valve and hamper its proper opening and closure mechanism. It is most commonly seen in men and women over the age of 60 years.
Symptoms Of Aortic Valve Stenosis
Patients with mild to moderate aortic stenosis usually remain symptomless for many years. However, over a period of time, stenosis progresses and worsens to produce host of noticeable symptoms. It is for this reason a child born with aortic stenosis may remain symptomless until he attains adolescence.
Symptoms of aortic stenosis may be abrupt or gradual in onset. The first symptom is breathlessness on exertion (dyspnoea). Other important symptoms are chest pain (angina) on effort and fainting attacks (syncope). Patient experiences unusual tiredness even after performing minor task. The heart beats abnormally fast. The systolic blood pressure is abnormally low.
You may feel a thrill or a thud on your finger if you place them on the aortic area on left side of chest. Children with severe form of this condition are unable to put on weight. They may get tired easily with breathing difficulty. In many untreated cases aortic valve stenosis is a cause of sudden death.
How To Prevent Aortic Valve Stenosis?
Aortic valve stenosis can be prevented if it is not congenital in origin. You can take several steps to prevent the heart valve getting damaged.
- Exercise regularly and stop smoking.
- Take medicines if you suffer from sore throat. As rheumatic fever a consequence of strep throat is common cause for aortic stenosis.
- Maintain proper dental hygiene.
- Eat healthy diet consisting more fruits and vegetables.
- Avoid oily and saturated fat containing foods.
- Prevent obesity by reducing consumption of fast food and exercising regularly.
- Consult your doctor immediately if you suffer from sore throat.