Tricuspid valve disease occurs when the tricuspid valve in the heart does not work normally. The tricuspid valve connects the right upper chamber (atrium) to the right lower chamber (ventricle) and is one of four heart valves. The valve keeps blood flowing in the right direction at the right time. In tricuspid valve disease, the valve becomes hardened, narrow, or is unable to close properly, which can allow blood to flow in the wrong direction or move at the wrong time. The disorder can be present at birth (congenital), or it can be acquired later in life.
The symptoms of tricuspid valve disease are similar to symptoms of other heart valve diseases. Symptoms may include a racing or very hard heartbeat (palpitations), fatigue, dizziness, fever, and rapid weight gain. In very severe cases, symptoms may include chest pain, shortness of breath, swelling of the legs or stomach, and cold skin. Some individuals may not have symptoms. Acquired valvular heart disease is often caused by another disease or infection such as rheumatic fever and endocarditis. Other risk factors include smoking cigarettes, abusing alcohol, being overweight, and uncontrolled blood sugar for people with diabetes.
In order to diagnose the disorder, your doctor will perform a physical exam, listen to your heartbeat for a swishing sound (a murmur), and suggest tests to confirm the diagnosis (such as MRIs or an angiogram). There are medications available for treatment. However, in more severe cases, surgery to replace the valve may be necessary. Research is ongoing, so speak with a cardiologist (heart doctor) about the most current treatment options. Support organizations are also a good source of information and will help connect you with others living with valvular heart disease. If your baby is born with valvular heart disease, talk to a genetic counselor about possible causes and the risk to future pregnancies.