When the heart valves begin to fail, the heart beats harder to make up for the reduced blood flow. As the heart beats harder, symptoms of valve disease may occur including:

Shortness of breath or difficulty catching your breath

You may notice this most when your are active (doing your normal daily activities) or when you lie down flat in bed. You may need to sleep propped up on a few pillows to breathe easier


Heart palpitations may feel like a rapid heart rhythm, irregular heart beats, skipped beats or a flip-flop feeling in your chest.

Swelling of your ankles, feet or abdomen

Edema is swelling of the ankles, feet or abdomen. Swelling may also occur in your belly, which can cause you to feel bloated.

Weakness or dizziness

You may feel too weak to carry out your normal daily activities. Dizziness can also occur, and in some cases, passing out may be a symptom.

Quick weight gain

A weight gain of two or three pounds in one day is possible.

Discomfort in your chest

This may feel like a pressure or weight in the chest with activity or going out in cold air.

Call your doctor if you begin to have new symptoms or if they become more frequent or severe.

Symptoms do not always relate to how serious your valve disease is. You may have no symptoms at all and have severe valve disease, requiring treatment. Or, in come cases, you may have symptoms, yet diagnostic tests may show your valve leak is not significant. These symptoms may cause you to worry, but they are not dangerous or life-threatening, and may not require treatment at all.

  • Know your symptoms
  • See your doctor for regular visits
  • Call your doctor if you have any new symptoms or if your symptoms become more frequent or severe

Do not wait for your next appointment to tell your doctor about changes in your symptoms.

Valve disease and other heart conditions

Patients with valve disease often also have heart failure or atrial fibrillation.

Heart failure means your heart is working less efficiently and cannot pump a normal amount of blood. Symptoms of heart failure and valve disease are similar. I f you have heart failure, it is important to follow your treatment plan.

Atrial fibrillation is an abnormal heart rhythm that starts in the atria (upper chambers of the heart). It can cause a rapid disorganized heart beat. Many treatment options are available for patients with atrial fibrillation. these include medications, lifestyle changes, procedures and surgery. If you need valve surgery, you can be treated for your atrial fibrillation during your heart surgery procedure.

Learn more about valve disease

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/19/2019.

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