When the aortic valve gets narrowed, and the blood flow gets obstructed the condition is called aortic stenosis.
The aortic valve divides the lower left chamber called left ventricle and the aorta, which is the main artery of our body. This valve has to open so that blood can flow out of the heart. When aortic stenosis happens, the very opening of the valve becomes narrowed, and this reduces the blood flow through it. As a result, the heart has to pump harder so that the normal blood flow is not interrupted. In the UK, aortic stenosis is one of the major causes of valve replacements.
In case of young people who suffer from aortic stenosis,especially those living in developed countries, it usually occurs as a result of a heart abnormality which is often present at birth itself (Refer Congenital heart disease). In case of elderly patients, this condition is frequently caused by calcium deposits on the aortic valve. In older days, another common cause was rheumatic fever. But this is a very rare case in developed countries these days, as many effective antibiotics are easily available now to fight this condition.
Often in mild cases, it shows no symptoms. The only noticeable symptom will be the tiredness felt by the patient. But in severe cases, symptoms such as the following may surface:
Fainting and dizziness.
Chest pain while exerting.
In case the aortic valve opening is very narrow, the blood flow in the coronary arteries will get reduced and this will in turn reduce the blood flow to the heart muscles. When this happens breathlessness and chronic heart failure will happen. Also, abnormal heart rhythms (Refer Arrhythmias) may develop as well as valve infections.
Mostly, mild cases are diagnosed during a routine medical examination. In case your doctor doubts that you may have developed aortic stenosis, further tests like a detailed echocardiography may be needed to study the heart interiors as well as the aortic valve. More often, an X-ray of the chest may also be necessary because it will help to detect calcium deposits on the aortic valve which may cause aortic stenosis. Once diagnosed, cardiac catheterization can be performed to measure the severity of the condition. In this procedure, a flexible catheter will be inserted into an arm or groin artery and will be passed into the heart. This catheter will have a small device attached to it for measuring the pressures on both sides of the valve.
Drugs such as diuretics is used in the treatment of aortic stenosis which relieve one of its major symptoms, breathlessness by taking away excess fluid present in the lungs. Nevertheless, a valve replacement will be needed eventually in most of the cases. If you have an inherited aortic stenosis, its better to go for a balloon valvuloplasty. In this method, an inflated balloon is used to widen the valve. Also, make sure to have a single dose of an antibiotic medication before you undergo any dental procedures or operations on the digestive tract that have the risk of infection. Always make sure to get the proper treatment before your heart muscle gets badly damaged.