The heart has four valves that open and close with each heartbeat, helping to regulate how blood moves through the heart. A problem with one of these valves can be caused by birth defects, age-related changes, infections or other conditions. Three kinds of problems can affect heart valves:
Regurgitation – Backflow of blood that occurs if a valve doesn’t close tightly enough. Instead of flowing forward through the heart or into an artery, blood leaks backward into the heart chamber. This is usually caused by prolapse, which occurs when the flaps of the valve flop or bulge back into the heart chamber. Valve regurgitation is sometimes referred to as “leaky valve.”
Stenosis – Thickening or stiffening of a valve that keeps it from fully opening to let blood flow through.
Atresia – A condition from birth that occurs when a valve forms without an opening for blood to flow through.
If the faulty valve is severely impaired it may need to be surgically repaired or replaced. These surgeries can include: