The heart is made up of muscle tissues. It contains four chambers; two upper chambers are atria, and two lower chambers are ventricles. The valve of the heart controls the blood flow through the heart. A ruptured valve leaks the blood because it doesn’t close properly. Four valves in the heart close and open according to heartbeats.

These valves control the blood flow through the four chambers of the heart. When a heart valve doesn’t close properly and leaks the blood, it is called a leaky heart valve, valve insufficiency, or regurgitation of the heart valve. Due to the leaky valve, sometimes the heart doesn’t pump enough blood to the rest of the body.

It can cause many health problems that can be minor or severe. Heart valve leakage can force the heart to work harder to pump enough blood to the body. It can lead to sudden cardiac arrest, heart failure, and death. When the valves rupture and do not work correctly, they may need treatment or replacement. Some physical signs and symptoms of the heart valve problem are;

  • Chest pain 
  • Palpitation 
  • Weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Lightheadedness
  • Fainting 
  • Swelling in ankles, feet, or abdomen 

Kinds of leaky heart valve:

There are four types or categories of valves;

  1. Aortic valve (located between the aorta and left ventricle)
  2. Tricuspid valve (located in between the right atrium and the right ventricle)
  3. Mitral valve (located in between the left atrium and the left ventricle)
  4. Pulmonic valve (located in between the pulmonary artery and the right ventricle)

Heart valves contain a flap that stops excess blood flow and accurately keeps blood flow. The flap issue causes the valve’s opening or closing to be irregular. Heart valve leakage can appear in any one of the four heart valves.

  1. Mitral valve (leakage occurs between the left atrium and the left ventricle)
  2. Tricuspid valve (leakage occurs between the right atrium and the right ventricle)
  3. Aortic valve (leakage occurs between the aorta and the left ventricle)
  4. Pulmonary valve (leakage occurs between the pulmonary artery and the right ventricle)

Heart valve leakage is pretty common. Mitral valve leakage is the most common type. In mild cases, leakage does not cause any severe problems or symptoms. 

Causes of leakage of heart valve:

Causes of heart valve leakage are;

  • Congenital heart problems (birth heart defects) 
  • Cardiomyopathy (irregular heart muscles)
  • Enlarged heart (increased size of the heart)
  • The infection causes complications like rheumatic fever or endocarditis.
  • Enlarged aorta (increased size of the aorta)
  • Changed heart shape (injury to the heart causes a change in heart shape)
  • Mitral valve rupture or prolapse
  • Marfan syndrome 
  • Pulmonary hypertension (high or increased blood pressure in the lungs) 
  • Calcification of heart valve (calcium deposition in the heart valve, which causes narrowing of the heart valve)
  • Physical trauma  

Symptoms of valves leakage:

In mild cases, heart valve leakage does not cause any symptoms. But in severe cases, leakage worsens the symptoms over time. If one is facing the following symptoms, then talk to the doctor;

  • Dizziness 
  • Fainting 
  • Rapid heartbeats or irregular heartbeats
  • Pain in the chest 
  • Feeling the pressure in the chest 
  • Difficulty in breathing 
  • Swollen ankles or feet
  • Fatigue or tiredness
  • Leg swelling 
  • Chest discomfort 
  • Lightheadedness
  • Rapid weight gain 
  • Heart palpitation 

When to see the doctor:

A heart valve leakage can lead to cardiac arrest and heart failure. Seek instant medical care if you experience the following symptoms;

  • Chest pain 
  • Fainting 
  • Weakness
  • Rapid heartbeats
  • The sudden attack of shortness of breath 


When diagnosing a leaky heart valve, health care providers use many strategies. A physical exam and heart tests are included in the diagnosis. During the physical exam, the health care provider or doctor asks;

  • Ask about symptoms and duration 
  • Ask about your medical history
  • Listen to your heartbeats and lungs. Leaky heart valves can cause heart murmurs, which a stethoscope can detect. 
  • Check your blood pressure.
  • Check your weight. 

Diagnostic tests are the following;

  • Chest X-ray
  • CT-scan of heart
  • Cardiac catheterization 
  • Echocardiogram (in this test, an ultrasound of the heart is done to check the leakage)
  • Exercise stress test
  • Electrocardiogram 

Risk factors of heart valve leakage:

Common and usual heart valve leakage risks are;

  • Age 
  • Family history or genetics 
  • Heart infection history 
  • High blood pressure 
  • High cholesterol 
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity 
  • Smoking 
  • Lack of physical activity 
  • Some medications 
  • Stress 

Treatment of leaky heart valve:

Mild cases don’t require any treatment. Treatment becomes necessary when the following symptoms show;

  1. Effect on the ability of life
  2. Cases of terrifying or distress symptoms 
  3. Cause strain in the heart 
  4. Become life-threatening 

Many types of heart valve surgery replace or repair the leaky heart valve. A doctor or health care provider will suggest the best treatment for you. The decision will be based on your valve condition or leakage of blood. Some procedures include;

  1. Annuloplasty or valve repair (a ring is used in this treatment to tighten the leaky valve)
  2. Placement of a clip in the valve
  3. Replacement of leaking valve with a device in a surgery that is made up of carbon and metal 
  4. Replacement of valve with a deceased person by surgery

The benefits of replacement of the heart valve are;

  • Strengthen the heart muscles
  • Preserved the valve functions
  • Reduce the risk of post-surgery infection 
  • No more need for blood thinners

Possible risk factors for heart valve replacement surgery are;

  • Bleeding in surgery or after surgery
  • Infection 
  • Blood clotting (cause heart attack, stroke, or lung problems)
  • Pancreatitis 
  • Pneumonia 
  • Difficulty in breathing 
  • Abnormal heartbeats
  • Replaced valve doesn’t work correctly 
  • Death 

After surgery, if you experience the following things, then talk to your health care provider immediately;

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Redness, swelling, bleeding in the catheter inserted in place
  • Increased pain in the incision site 
  • Trouble in breathing 
  • Easy bruising 
  • Increase swelling in legs or abdomen 
  • Frequent vomiting or nausea
  • Abnormal pulse rate 
  • Weakness 

Prevention of leaky heart valve:

How can you prevent the leaky heart valve and complications? Some are the following;

  • Eat a well-balanced and nutritious diet 
  • Do a regular exercise
  • Get enough sleep
  • Limit or avoid unhealthy things like alcohol, smoking, drugs, and foods high in fats and salt.
  • Maintain a healthy weight 
  • Reduce the stress level 
  • Follow up treatment carefully 
  • Get plenty or enough rest