What is tricuspid valve regurgitation?

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Tricuspid valve regurgitation: Overview

The tricuspid valve controls the flow of blood between the upper right chamber of the heart (right atrium) and the lower right chamber (right ventricle). Tricuspid valve regurgitation happens when the valve can't close all the way. This lets blood leak backward (regurgitate) into the right atrium.

Small leaks may not cause problems. More severe leaks can weaken the heart over time, so it can't pump as much blood as your body needs (heart failure).

This condition can be caused by a health problem that damages or changes the shape of the tricuspid valve. Examples may include other heart valve diseases, rheumatic disease, a blood clot in a lung, or heart problems you were born with.

You may not have symptoms. Or you might:

  • Feel tired and weak.
  • Have shortness of breath.
  • Have a bloated belly.
  • Have swelling in the legs, ankles, and feet.

Your doctor may check your heart regularly. The doctor will likely recommend a heart-healthy lifestyle. You may take medicine to treat a problem that is causing, or was caused by, the regurgitation. If the disease becomes severe, you may choose to have the valve repaired or replaced.

How can you care for yourself when you have tricuspid valve regurgitation?

  • Be safe with medicines. Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine. You will get more details on the specific medicines your doctor prescribes.
  • Watch for new or worse symptoms.
  • Eat heart-healthy foods. These include vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, lean meat, fish, and whole grains. Limit sodium, sugar, and alcohol.
  • Be active. Ask your doctor what type and level of exercise is safe for you. Let your doctor know if your ability to exercise changes.
  • Try to quit or cut back on using tobacco and other nicotine products. This includes smoking and vaping. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good. Try to avoid secondhand smoke too.
  • Stay at a weight that's healthy for you. Talk to your doctor if you need help with this.
  • Try to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.
  • Manage other health problems. If you think you may have a problem with alcohol or drug use, talk to your doctor.
  • Avoid infections such as COVID-19, colds, and the flu. Get the flu vaccine every year. Get a pneumococcal vaccine. If you have had one before, ask your doctor whether you need another dose. Stay up to date on your COVID-19 vaccines.
  • Take care of your teeth and gums. Get regular dental checkups. Good dental health is important because bacteria can spread from infected teeth and gums to the heart valves.

What is tricuspid valve regurgitation?

The tricuspid valve controls the flow of blood between the upper right chamber of the heart (right atrium) and the lower right chamber (right ventricle). Tricuspid valve regurgitation means that this valve lets blood leak backward (regurgitate) into your right atrium. It may not cause problems. But sometimes it can weaken the heart.

Tricuspid valve regurgitation: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have symptoms of sudden heart failure. These may include:
    • Severe trouble breathing.
    • A fast or irregular heartbeat.
    • Coughing up pink, foamy mucus.
    • Passing out (losing consciousness).

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new or changed symptoms of heart failure, such as:
    • New or increased shortness of breath.
    • New or worse swelling in your legs, ankles, or feet.
    • Sudden weight gain, such as more than 2 to 3 pounds in a day or 5 pounds in a week. (Your doctor may suggest a different range of weight gain.)
    • Not sleeping well. Shortness of breath wakes you at night. You need extra pillows to prop yourself up to breathe easier.
    • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded or like you may faint.
    • Feeling so tired or weak that you cannot do your usual activities.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.