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Living With Heart Valve Disease

Heart valve disease is a lifelong condition. However, many people have heart valve defects or disease but don't have symptoms. For some people, the condition mostly stays the same throughout their lives and doesn't cause any problems.

For other people, the condition slowly worsens until symptoms develop. If not treated, advanced heart valve disease can cause heart failure or other life-threatening conditions.

Eventually, you may need to have your faulty heart valve(s) repaired or replaced. After repair or replacement, you'll still need certain medicines and regular checkups with your doctor.

Ongoing Care

If you have heart valve disease, see your doctor regularly for checkups and for echocardiography or other tests. This will allow your doctor to check the progress of your heart valve disease.

Call your doctor if your symptoms worsen or you have new symptoms. Also, discuss with your doctor whether lifestyle changes might benefit you. Ask him or her which types of physical activity are safe for you.

Call your doctor if you have symptoms of infective endocarditis (IE). Symptoms of this heart infection include fever, chills, muscle aches, night sweats, problems breathing, fatigue (tiredness), weakness, red spots on the palms and soles, and swelling of the feet, legs, and belly.

Let your doctors and dentists know if you have a man-made valve or if you've had IE before. They may give you antibiotics before dental procedures (such as dental cleanings) that could allow bacteria to enter your bloodstream. Talk to your doctor about whether you need to take antibiotics before such procedures.

Take all of your medicines as prescribed.

Pregnancy and Heart Valve Disease

Mild or moderate heart valve disease during pregnancy usually can be managed with medicines or bed rest. With proper care, the disease usually won't pose heightened risks to the mother or fetus.

Doctors can treat most heart valve conditions with medicines that are safe to take during pregnancy. Your doctor can advise you on which medicines are safe for you.

Severe heart valve disease can make pregnancy or labor and delivery risky. If you have severe heart valve disease, consider having your heart valves repaired or replaced before getting pregnant. This treatment also can be done during pregnancy, if needed. However, this surgery poses danger to both the mother and fetus.

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November 16, 2011