Structural heart disease is a condition with the valves, tissues, and muscles of the heart. Its name indicates deformity lies in the structure of the heart. Much structural heart disease is congenital, which present at birth. Some heart disease is acquired, which developed later in life. There are a lot of structural heart diseases, but they all involve a defect in the structure of the heart tissues and valves.
Structural Heart Disease
Following heart defects are involved in the category of the structural heart disease, they include
1- Arterial Septal Defect
This is present at birth. Arterial septal defect ASD or patent foramen ovale PFO are the two types of holes in the upper two chamber of the heart. This arterial hole allows the deoxygenated blood of the right atrium to mix with the oxygenated blood of the left atrium. The patient presents with cyanosis, shortness of breath, and bluish discoloration of the skin. The defect is corrected by the surgery, the hole is closed to make a partition between the right and left atrium.
2- Ventricle Septal Defect
Like ASD, ventricle septal defect VSD is a structural defect in the ventricular wall. A hole is present at the ventricular wall which allows the blood to mix (de-oxygenated blood of right side to oxygenated blood of the left side). This defect removes the partition between the lower left and right chambers of the heart. This defect is closed by the corrective surgery.
3- Heart Valve Disease
The heart has two valves, bicuspid and tricuspid valve. Heart valve diseases occur when the valves of the heart are damaged and destroyed due to any reason. These valvular heart diseases result in impaired blood flow, disturbed pressure inside the chambers and altered contraction of the chambers. These diseases can be improved by medication as well as by surgery.
The heart muscles become stiff and hard to make their functions normally. This heart disease is related to the damage in heart muscles which causes the heart to be enlarged.
Inflammation of heart muscles and tissues is known as myocarditis. This may be caused by infections, rheumatic fever, drug toxicity, or other causes. It can be treated by antibiotics depending on the causative agent.
Symptoms of Structural Heart Disease
How does structural heart disease present? The signs and symptoms vary patient to patient according to the severity of the disease, type of defect, and condition of the patient. Symptoms of structural heart disease include
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Tightness or pressure felt in the chest
- Leg cramps
- High blood pressure
- Coronary artery disease
- Kidney dysfunctions
- Irregular heartbeats
- Swollen hands and feet
- Weight gain
What Are The Causes Of Structural Heart Disease?
Many heart diseases are congenital which are present at born. While some heart diseases develop over time due to the following causes
High blood pressure
Uncontrolled, chronic hypertension leads to hardening of the heart muscles, valves, and make them unable to pump efficiently. Because high blood pressure enhances the resistance of the blood to pump by heart to the whole body. Which indirectly increased the load on your heart and heart moves to failure side.
A plaque deposition around the vessels and block the artery to restrict the blood flow. The coronary artery, which is the main artery to supply the heart, is narrowed and clogged. So atherosclerosis of coronary artery reduces the oxygen supply to heart, weakens the heart muscles, and leave a tissue scar. Thus, scar muscles don’t contract, while normal heart muscles contract normally and overall heart-pumping activity is disturbed.
Chronic, excessive alcohol consumption weakens the muscles of the heart severely and heart functions are compromised.
Rarely, but patients taking anti-cancer drugs are more at risk of having heart diseases because it may damage the heart muscles.
How It Can Be Diagnosed?
If you don’t have structural heart defects at birth, your doctor can diagnose it later in life by having your history, physical examination, and some particular tests to determine the exact cause of your heart diseases and to measure the heart functions. Following investigations are done to diagnose the heart diseases
- Complete Blood test
- Complete urine test
- Chest x-ray
HP Thoughts: Here is the second most common heart ailment in our mini-series — Cardiovascular Disease.