The tricuspid, pulmonary, mitral and aortic valves of the heart prevent blood from flowing in the wrong direction. These valves open when the pressure of the blood pushes forward and close to prevent the blood from flowing back. Diseased valves may be too stiff to open easily, preventing blood from passing through easily. A backup of blood can lead to congestive heart failure, the enlargement of the heart, or thickening of the heart muscle. Valves may also fail to close completely, allowing blood to leak back in the wrong direction. This failure to close properly can also lead to congestive heart failure, fatigue, and some heart rhythm disorders.
The causes of valve disease include congenital defects (defects you are born with), build-up of calcium deposits that accumulate on the valves as you age, and infections. Many valve conditions can be repaired by surgery and there are now artificial heart valves that can be surgically implanted. Those individuals that are born with a defective valve, have valves scarred from rheumatic fever or have had an artificial valve implanted should be careful to mention this to their dentists and physicians as further disease and inflammation of the valves can result from various dental and medical procedures.