Aortic Valve Disease

The two common types of aortic valve diseases are aortic insufficiency and aortic stenosis.

Aortic insufficiency

Aortic insufficiency is a heart valve disease in which the aortic valve weakens or balloons, preventing the valve from closing tightly. This leads to backward flow of blood from the aorta (the largest blood vessel) into the left ventricle (the left lower chamber of the heart).

Risk factors

In the past, rheumatic fever was the primary cause of aortic insufficiency. Now that antibiotics are used to treat rheumatic fever, other causes are more commonly seen. Other risk factors for valve problems include:

  • ankylosing spondylitis  

  • aortic dissection  

  • endocarditis

  • high blood pressure

  • Marfan's syndrome  

  • Reiter's syndrome  

  • syphilis 

  • systemic lupus erythematosus  

  • valve problems that are present at birth


Patients with aortic insufficiency may present with one or several of the following symptoms or have no symptoms at all:

  • chest pain under the sternum, which may radiate; crushing, squeezing, pressure, tightness; pain increases with exercise, relieves with rest.
  • fainting

  • fatigue

  • irregular, rapid, racing, pounding or fluttering pulse

  • palpitations

  • pulse, pounding  

  • shortness of breath

  • weakness

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