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Causes of Structural Heart Disease

While structural heart disease can have different causes, the condition can be present at birth or acquired later in life. Individuals with this type of heart disease have abnormalities that primarily affect the heart’s valves or chambers, or both. While some people with structural heart disease have no symptoms, many will have shortness of breath or poor exercise tolerance. 

To schedule an appointment with the Heart and Vascular Institute, call 813-844-3900 or email

Examples of congenital causes include patent foramen ovale (PFO), atrial septal defect (ASD), ventricular septal defect (VSD), arterial and venous fistulae, and pseudoaneurysms. In addition to poor exercise tolerance and shortness of breath, symptoms of structural heart disease can include mini-stroke, migraine headaches, heart palpitations, stroke, high blood pressure, fatigue, kidney dysfunction, coronary artery disease, and chest pain or tightening.

Aging is one cause of acquired structural heart disease. Other examples include:

  • Wear and tear on the heart valve – High blood pressure, myocardial infarctions (heart attacks), and arthrosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries with plaque) can weaken the valves and chambers of the heart. 
  • Infection – Streptococcal bacteria present with rheumatic fever can narrow the mitral valve. Similarly, endocarditis can lead to structural heart disease when bacteria (commonly entering the body because of poor dental hygiene or via unsterilized surgical equipment) attaches to and destroys the valves, leaving scar tissue.
  • Another underlying condition or disease – Rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and calcium buildup on aortic or mitral valves can even lead to structural heart disease.

The team at Tampa General Hospital’s Heart and Vascular Institute understand the causes of structural heart disease and can properly treat the various types of the condition. At TGH, we continually improve our services by undergoing internal quality management checks and submitting our outcomes to national registries to compare results with other cardiovascular centers across the country.