When valves are damaged, they often don’t open and close properly, which makes your heart work harder. In time, this extra work can weaken your heart muscle and heart valve disease can develop. Heart valve disease can also cause heart rate and rhythm problems and other complications.

The most common types of valve problems are:

  • Insufficiency. The valve fails to close completely and permits blood backflow.
  • Stenosis. Thickened tissue narrows the valve opening and limits the amount of blood that can pass through.
  • Prolapse. Mitral valve leaflets (flaps) protrude backward into the left atrium whenever the heart contracts - causing some blood to flow backwards inside the heart.


Some people are born with a valve defect (a congenital valve defect). For others, the valves are damaged by coronary artery disease or by an illness such as rheumatic fever. Heart valves can also simply wear out as you grow older.

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