Medications may help in treating certain symptoms and supporting better heart function. But there are currently no drugs that can treat or cure specific heart valve disorders.
Your heart has four valves that control blood flow into and out of the heart’s four chambers. All four valves are susceptible to problems that range from mild and asymptomatic to potentially life threatening conditions.
Your doctor may prescribe medications to help slow progression of your condition or ease symptoms. But medications aren’t usually enough to fully manage serious heart valve problems.
Still, it’s important to know how medications may be effective parts of a comprehensive treatment plan. It’s also important to know what drugs may be harmful if you’ve received a diagnosis of a heart valve problem.
Learn more about the medications used to treat heart valve problems, as well as the symptoms that may suggest your condition is worsening.
Heart valve problems generally fall into two categories: regurgitation and stenosis.
Valve regurgitation means a valve can’t close tightly so blood leaks back through the valve. On the other hand, valve stenosis means the valve has stiffened and can’t open sufficiently to allow a healthy amount of blood to pass through it.
For people with heart valve disease, doctors suggest healthy lifestyle choices as part of management. These may include:
- following a heart-healthy diet that’s low in added sugars, sodium, saturated fats, and processed foods
- exercising most days of the week
- avoiding smoking (if you smoke)
- managing stress
Your doctor may also prescribe medications to ease symptoms and slow the valve disease’s progression. But it’s important to understand that no medications can treat specific problems such as valve regurgitation and valve stenosis, according to the
When heart valve disease progresses and causes symptoms to arise, the next phase of treatment is usually either valve repair or replacement. In some cases, surgeons can perform these procedures with minimally invasive techniques. These involve catheters inserted into a blood vessel and threaded up to the heart, where the repair or replacement is done.
Otherwise, doctors may recommend open heart surgery.
Because problems such as high blood pressure and arrhythmia can complicate or worsen a heart valve disorder, your doctor may recommend one or more different types of drugs. This is to preserve effective heart function and cardiovascular health.
If you have a valve disorder, doctors may prescribe medications, including:
- angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) to widen blood vessels and treat high blood pressure
- antiarrhythmics to help treat heart rhythm disturbances
- antibiotics to prevent or treat a bacterial infection
- anticoagulants, also known as “blood thinners,” to lower the risk of blood clots
- beta-blockers to ease the heart’s workload and to treat palpitations
- diuretics to reduce fluid levels in the body, which can lower blood pressure and lessen the heart’s workload
- statins to lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of coronary artery disease
- vasodilators, which help relax the blood vessels and ease the burden on the heart muscle
The best medication for a heart valve problem is one that treats an underlying condition that might be complicating your valve disorder.
If you have high blood pressure, for example, managing it with medication and lifestyle changes should be a priority.
Research is ongoing to find medications that can specifically target and treat valve problems. A
You can manage a heart valve problem in its early stages with a healthy lifestyle and medications. And mild cases may never need additional treatment.
But when a heart valve problem starts affecting the heart’s ability to pump enough blood to meet the body’s demands, the
Some valve procedures don’t require open surgery. Instead, doctors perform surgeries using catheters. One common example is transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR). In 2020, the American College of Cardiology reported that TAVR had surpassed open surgery to replace diseased aortic valves.
Heart valve problems can be congenital, meaning you’re born with them, or they can develop over time. Some common causes and risk factors for heart valve disorders include:
- advancing age
- a family history of valve problems
- high blood pressure
- smoking (if you smoke)
Of course, illegal drugs such as cocaine and MDMA (“ecstasy”) can be particularly harmful for the heart. But in some cases, legal and otherwise helpful prescription medications may raise the risk of heart valve problems.
For example, a 2019 study suggests that a class of common antibiotics called fluoroquinolones (Cipro, Levaquin) may raise the risk of aortic valve regurgitation and mitral valve regurgitation.
Other drugs associated with heart valve problems include the migraine medications ergotamine and methysergide, as well as the Parkinson’s disease medications pergolide and cabergoline.
In mild cases or early stages, you may not experience any symptoms of valve disorder. You may not even know you have a valve problem until your doctor detects a suspicious sound using a stethoscope or notices a change in the strength of your pulse.
But when a heart valve problem becomes symptomatic, you may notice:
- chest pain, also known as angina
- dizziness or lightheadedness
- rapid or irregular heartbeat
- shortness of breath, often after mild physical exertion
- swelling in the lower legs
If you’ve received a diagnosis of a heart valve problem, be sure to have a thorough conversation with your healthcare team about what medications may be helpful. It’s important to understand that there are currently no drugs that can cure serious heart valve disorders.
You should also discuss whether valve repair or replacement may be necessary soon. When possible, valve repair is preferable to valve replacement. But repair may not be an option if a valve is too damaged.
If you’re prescribed medications to support heart health and already take medications or supplements for other reasons, review them all with your doctor to avoid potential drug interactions.