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Aortic valve regurgitation describes the condition in which your aortic valve leaks. It's also called aortic insufficiency. The aortic valve is one of the heart’s 4 valves. These valves help the blood flow through the heart and out to the body. Normally, the aortic valve stops blood from flowing back into the left ventricle. With aortic valve regurgitation, some blood leaks back through the valve as the heart relaxes. Aortic valve regurgitation happens more often with age. It is a fairly common problem that affects both men and women.
Aortic valve regurgitation can be acute or chronic. With acute aortic valve regurgitation, the valve suddenly becomes leaky. The heart doesn’t have time to get used to the leak in the valve. With chronic aortic valve regurgitation, the valve slowly becomes leakier. This gives the heart time to get used to the leak.
Aortic valve regurgitation can be caused by any condition in which the leaflets or the ring structure of the valve is damaged. This can occur with the following conditions:
Advancing age is a common risk factor for aortic regurgitation. You can reduce some risk factors for aortic valve regurgitation such as:
There are other risk factors, such as age, that you can’t change. You also can’t change certain genetic conditions, such as Marfan syndrome.
You may not have any symptoms from mild aortic regurgitation. If the condition becomes more severe, you may develop symptoms that worsen over time. These may include:
Sudden severe aortic valve regurgitation is a medical emergency, and includes symptoms such as:
Your healthcare provider will take your health history and give you a physical exam. Using a stethoscope, he or she will check for heart murmurs or congestion in your lungs. You may also have tests such as:
Treatment varies according to how severe your condition is. If you have a mild form of the condition, you may need only regular check-ups with your healthcare provider. You may not have symptoms for many years. Symptoms may get worse slowly over time and not affect daily life.
In severe aortic regurgitation, surgery is commonly recommended. The timing of surgery is important to discuss with your healthcare provider and surgeon. In some cases, severe aortic regurgitation may be treated with medicine. Medicine may also be used in the short-term before valve replacement surgery. Or it may be used ongoing if you are not able to have valve replacement surgery.
It is also important to manage your blood pressure.
Medical treatment options may include:
For people with severe aortic regurgitation, symptoms, enlargement of the left ventricle or abnormal pump function, the treatment is often somewhat different:
Sometimes aortic valve regurgitation is acute:
Complications are sometimes associated with aortic valve regurgitation such as:
To reduce the risk of these complications, your healthcare provider may prescribe the following based upon your health history:
See your healthcare provider for regular checkups. Visit him or her right away if your symptoms change. Make note of your symptoms when you exercise. They may get worse during physical activity. It is common for symptoms to first be noticeable during exercise. Talk with your healthcare provider about your exercise habits. Tell all your healthcare providers and your dentist about your health history.
Your healthcare provider may prescribe treatments for heart problems related to aortic valve regurgitation such as:
If you notice your symptoms gradually worsening, plan to see your healthcare provider soon. You may need surgery or a medicine change.
Seek medical help right away if:
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
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