Pulmonary Valve Disease

What is Pulmonary Valve Disease?

If you suffer from Pulmonary Valve Disease, the valve that sits between the right ventricle of your heart and the main artery supplying blood to your lungs doesn’t function correctly. Either the valve doesn’t open far enough to move a sufficient amount of blood, or it doesn’t open at all.

Most people with pulmonary valve disease are born with it; this is called pulmonary valve stenosis. Adults can develop pulmonary valve disease following an infection of the heart’s lining that damages the valve, or after contracting rheumatic fever.

What are the Symptoms of Pulmonary Valve Disease?

Symptoms of pulmonary valve disease may be mild initially and become more severe over time. You may have signs that include shortness of breath, fatigue, dizziness and fainting, and chest pain. Children with the disease may develop a blue tint to their skin because they aren’t getting enough oxygen, and babies who have it might not gain weight appropriately. Some patients also have heart murmurs or other heart beat irregularities.

Pulmonary Valve Disease Causes

There are three different types of pulmonary valve disease, and all three can be caused by congenital defects. Pulmonary valve stenosis, where the pulmonary valve doesn’t form correctly, is one such example. Pulmonary artresia, where a solid sheet of tissue occurs in place of a pulmonary valve, is also a congenital condition, which is caused by abnormal fetal development.

Congenital heart defects can also be responsible for the third type of the disease, pulmonary valve regurgitation. With this condition, the pulmonary valve is unable to close properly and therefore leaks.

  • It’s also possible for pulmonary valve regurgitation to occur as a result of another health condition, with pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in the lungs) being the most common. Other causes include:
    Carcinoid syndrome (caused by a carcinoid tumor leaking chemicals into the bloodstream)
  • Infective endocarditis (bacterial infection of the heart or blood vessels)
  • Rheumatic fever (inflammatory reaction to strep throat infection)
  • Complications of surgery to correct heart defect called tetralogy of Fallot.

How is Pulmonary Valve Disease Treated?

Mild cases of pulmonary valve disease may not require any treatment unless symptoms worsen. However, it’s important to keep a close eye on the function of the heart and lungs. Your doctor may order tests, including an echocardiogram or magnetic resonance imaging scan (MRI), to show exactly what state the valve is in and how much damage is present.

Medications that increase blood flow and prevent clots may be important parts of your treatment plan. Some doctors will also prescribe a diuretic that prevents buildup of fluid in the lungs.

Surgical options to improve the valve’s function can also help. A valvuloplasty stretches the walls of the pulmonary valve to increase capacity for blood flow. It works much like an angioplasty procedure on a heart valve, where a tiny balloon is inserted into the artery and inflated. In cases of severe damage to the valve, a valve replacement may be advisable.

Pulmonary Valve Disease Prevention

Since most instances of pulmonary valve disease are congenital there isn’t anything that can be done to prevent it. However, in the case of pulmonary valve regurgitation which is caused by other health conditions, it may be possible to reduce the risk of the disease by successfully treating or managing the primary condition. It’s important to follow all advice and treatment plans offered to you by doctors. There may also be lifestyle factors you can adjust to reduce the risk of complications arising from the condition.

Maintaining a healthy heart and lungs is always advisable to prevent conditions affecting these organs. Eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, limit saturated fat and eat moderate amounts of unsaturated fat for good heart health. Take regular exercise, but ask your healthcare provider for exercise regimens that are safe if you have a health condition affecting the heart or lungs. Also, those who smoke should quit, since tobacco smoke can increase the risk of many diseases of the lungs and heart.