Anatomical image of the heart showing the heart valves

Heart Valve Disease

What is heart valve disease?

Heart valve disease, or valvular heart disease, is an umbrella term for when one, or more, of the heart’s valves are diseased or damaged meaning that they are not working properly to pump blood around the heart and the rest of the body.

A normal heart has four major valves, the mitral valve, tricuspid valve, aortic valve, and the pulmonary valve. They open and close with every heartbeat to allow blood to flow through the heart in the right direction.

When any of these valves are damaged or diseased, the heart has to work harder to pump blood and heart valve disease can stop blood flowing correctly around the body.

There are different types of heart valve disease and any of the valves can be affected, however commonly the aortic or mitral valves become diseased.

If left untreated, heart valve disease can lead to heart failure, and even death.

What types of heart valve disease are there?

It is possible for the heart to be affected by more than just one type of valve disease at the same time and multiple valves can be affected.

What are the symptoms of heart valve disease?

It is possible for there to be no signs or symptoms in mild cases of heart valve disease.

Signs and symptoms of heart valve disease can include:

What are the causes of heart valve disease?

Heart valve disease can have a number of causes. It can be that one or more of the heart’s valves did not develop properly and the condition is present from birth (congenital). Or it can be caused by degenerative change, infections, or other heart conditions later in life.

Some of the most common causes of heart valve disease are:

Congenital heart valve disease

This is when a heart valve or valves don’t form properly, leading to structural abnormalities.

Leaflets are the flaps on a valve that open and close when the heart beats, sometimes heart valves do not develop all their leaflets. Of this type of birth defect, the most common is a Bicuspid Aortic Valve, where the aortic valve develops with only two leaflets instead of three.

Other Heart Diseases

Other types of heart disease that can then lead to valve disease are:


Heart valve disease can be caused by other infections, some of these include:


Aging can cause number of complications in the heart that may lead to heart valve disease. These include:

How is heart valve disease diagnosed?

It is important to have regular heart checks, as one of the most common ways heart valve disease is diagnosed is by a doctor listening to the heart through a stethoscope. They are listening for a heart murmur, often one of the first signs of heart valve disease, which in most cases can only be heard using a stethoscope.

Other methods of diagnosis your doctor may want to perform are:

How is heart valve disease treated?

The treatment for heart valve disease will vary depending on the cause of the heart valve disease and how much it is affecting the heart’s ability to function properly.

Available treatments include:

With advancements in transcatheter technology and advanced echocardiographic imaging, minimally invasive therapies are increasingly able to be used to treat heart valve disease.

How can heart valve disease be prevented?

Heart valve disease can potentially be life-threatening, but it is important to remember that regular heart checks will help with early diagnosis while the disease is mild, making it easier to treat.

It is also important to know and monitor the risk factors that can contribute to or worsen heart valve disease, and where possible, make lifestyle changes that reduce your risk.

Common risk factors that can cause or worsen valve diseases include:

By exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, and maintaining a healthy weight, many of these risk factors can be reduced. If you develop any symptoms of heart valve disease, seeing your doctor can help identify heart valve disease early. Download our Heart Health Check Guide to take with you to your next doctor's appointment.

Heart valve disease patient stories

Read the stories of these amazing heart warriors and their heart disease battles.

Acknowledgement of Country

The Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past and present.

Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute - The Home of Heart Research for 30 Years