Structural heart disease is a comprehensive term used to describe any problem with the structure of your heart. It indicates an abnormality in the function or structure of the muscles, chambers, valves, or walls in your heart. Structural heart disease can either be present at birth (congenital) or develop with age. If left untreated, it can lead to other health issues over time. The main types of structural heart disease are:

  • Heart valve disease is a problem with any of the four valves that open and close to control blood flow.
  • Cardiomyopathy is a disease involving the heart muscle.
  • Congenital heart disease is a structural heart problem that you have at birth.

Symptoms of structural heart diseases

Symptoms of structural heart disease are diverse and can differ based on the type of condition and the individual patient. Typically, signs of structural heart disease may include the following:

  • Transient ischemic attack (TIA), commonly known as mini-strokes
  • Stroke
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • A sensation of tightness in the chest
  • High blood pressure
  • Leg cramps
  • Kidney dysfunction
  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Fatigue
  • Coronary artery disease

Causes of structural heart disease

Structural heart disease can be congenital or can develop over time due to various factors, such as:

  • Atherosclerosis: 
  • High blood pressure (hypertension): 
  • Heart valve problems
  • Excessive alcohol consumption 
  • Drug use: 
  • Cancer treatments

How is structural heart disease diagnosed?

In case you were not diagnosed with a congenital heart defect at birth, your doctor may diagnose your condition by conducting a physical examination and gathering information about your medical history, symptoms, and overall health. Further tests may be recommended by your doctor to assess your heart function and identify the underlying cause of your heart problem.

  • Blood tests
  • Urinalysis
  • Chest x-ray
  • EKG (ECG, electrocardiogram)
  • Echocardiogram (Echo)
  • Imaging tests
  • Cardiac MRI
  • Right heart catheterization
  • Angiogram
  • Stress test

Treatment of structural heart diseases

In certain cases, no treatment may be necessary for structural heart disease. However, it is essential to undergo regular testing to monitor any changes or worsening of the condition. If treatment is necessary, some potential options may include:

  • Prescribing or adjusting medication
  • Coronary artery bypass or opening
  • Repairing or replacing heart structures
  • Implanting cardiac devices
  • Heart replacement or assistance