Aortic Valve Stenosis is an abnormal narrowing of the aortic valve opening and one of the most common and most serious valve disease problems.
Although some people have Aortic Valve Stenosis as a result of a congenital heart defect (present at birth), it more commonly develops as part of the aging process.
- Age-related stenosis doesn’t usually affect most people until after age 60, and often no symptoms show up until they’re in their 70’s or 80’s.
In older adults, Calcium deposits or scarring may have damaged the Aortic Valve and be restricting the amount of blood flowing through it.
- Eventually, this extra work limits the amount of blood it can pump, and this can cause symptoms as well as possibly weaken your heart muscle.
The effects range from mild to serious and some people don’t experience symptoms for many years, that is until their circulation is impaired due to the amount of blood being restricted from circulation.
The most common signs and symptoms of Aortic Valve Stenosis include:
• A Heart Murmur heard through a stethoscope
• Chest pain (angina) or tightness with activity
• Feeling faint or dizzy or fainting with activity (also called “Syncope“)
• Shortness of breath, especially when you have been active
• Fatigue, especially during times of increased activity
• Heart palpitations — sensations of a rapid, fluttering heartbeat
• Not eating enough (mainly seen in children with aortic valve stenosis)
• Not gaining enough weight (again, mainly observed in children with aortic valve stenosis)
The weakening effects of aortic valve stenosis on the heart may lead to heart failure.
- Heart failure signs and symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, and swollen ankles and feet.
Infants and children, who have stenosis of the Aortic Valve due to a congenital (present at birth) heart defect, may have symptoms such as:
• Fatigue with exertion
• Failure to gain weight
• Poor or inadequate feeding
• Breathing problems
It’s important to note that someone with Aortic Valve Stenosis may not complain of symptoms.
However, if family members notice a decline in routine physical activities or significant fatigue, it’s worth a visit to your healthcare professional to check for evidence of reduced heart function.
In addition to the above symptoms, the wall of the left ventricle may also show muscular thickening.
This is due to the extra effort required to pump the blood through the narrowed valve opening into the aorta (just like your muscles grow and thicken when you pump iron).
- The thickened wall takes up more space inside the lower heart chamber
- This allows less room for an adequate amount of blood to be supplied to the body
- In turn, this may cause heart failure.
Early treatment can help to reverse or slow down the progress of Aortic Stenosis.
Aortic Valve Stenosis In The Young
The most common cause of aortic stenosis in young people is a birth defect where only two cusps grow (called “a bicuspid valve) instead of the normal three.
- Another cause may be that the valve opening fails to grow along with the heart, which makes the heart work harder to pump blood to the restricted opening.
Then, over the years, the defective valve often becomes stiff and narrow because of calcium build-up.
Treatments for Aortic Valve Stenosis
- If there are no symptoms or if the symptoms are mild, a physician may recommend simply monitoring and following up on any changes.
However, anyone with Aortic Stenosis should have an Echocardiogram (a heart ultrasound) to confirm the safest options for treatment.
Even if no symptoms are present, it may be advisable to go ahead with treatment or repairs based on the test results.
Possible treatments may include valve repair or valve replacement.
The last lesson is always, listen to your body. With few exceptions, it always tells you when something’s wrong and needs fixing.