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Helping Your Heart Online Manual

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The aorta is the main artery carrying blood out of the heart. When blood leaves the heart, it flows through the aortic valve, into the aorta. In aortic stenosis, the aortic valve does not open fully. This decreases blood flow from the heart.

Learn more about aortic stenosis in our health library.

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Pulmonary atresia is a form of heart disease that occurs from birth (congenital heart disease), in which the pulmonary valve does not form properly.

Learn more about pulmonary atresia in our health library.

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Aortic regurgitation or aortic insufficiency is when a heart valve does not close completely. Because the valve never closes completely, blood leaks backward from the aorta into the left ventricle.

Learn more about aortic regurgitation in our health library.

Valve disease

Valve disease occurs if one or more of your heart valves does not open or close properly.

Examples are:

  • stenosis (the valve opening is too narrow) ?
  • atresia (the valve is not formed so blood cannot flow from one chamber to another) ?
  • regurgitation or incompetence (the valve does not fully close so the blood leaks) ?
Diagram compares a normal aortic valve to a heart valve with aortic stenosis

You may have had a valve disease since birth.

  • Atrial septal defect is a hole in the wall that separates the upper chambers of the heart.
  • Ventricular septal defect is a hole in the wall that separates the lower chambers of the heart.

Getting older and having a disease such as rheumatic fever can also damage a heart valve.

Signs and symptoms of valve disease

Signs and symptoms of valve disease include:

  • shortness of breath
  • fatigue, tiredness
  • chest discomfort
  • feeling lightheaded, dizzy or faint
  • swelling in your feet, stomach or abdomen.

Because your heart valves do not work properly, your heart works harder by thickening the walls (called hypertrophy) or by getting larger (dilating). Over time, the chambers in your heart lose their ability to pump well.



Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Helping Your Heart, fourth edition, cvs-ahc-90648

First published: 10/04/2002
Last updated: 06/01/2007

Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts