You're likely to start by first seeing your family doctor. After your initial appointment, your doctor may refer you to a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of heart conditions (cardiologist).
Here's some information to help you prepare for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
- Write down any symptoms you're experiencing, and for how long.
- Make a list of your key medical information, including other recent health problems you've had and the names of any prescription and over-the-counter medications you're taking.
- Find a family member or friend who can come with you to the appointment, if possible. Someone who accompanies you can help remember what the doctor says.
- Write down the questions you want to be sure to ask your doctor.
Questions to ask your doctor at your initial appointment include:
- What is likely causing my signs or symptoms?
- Are there any other possible causes for these signs or symptoms?
- What tests do I need?
- Should I see a specialist?
- Should I follow any restrictions in the time leading up to my appointment with a cardiologist?
Questions to ask if you are referred to a cardiologist include:
- What is my diagnosis?
- What treatment approach do you recommend?
- If you're recommending medications, what are the possible side effects?
- If you're recommending surgery, what procedure is most likely to be successful in my case? Why?
- If you're recommending surgery, what will my recovery be like?
- If you don't think I need immediate treatment, how will you determine the right time to treat my condition?
- How frequently will you see me for follow-up visits?
- What is my risk of long-term complications from this condition?
- What restrictions do I need to follow?
- Will physical activity, including sexual activity, increase my risk of complications?
- What diet and lifestyle changes should I make?
- I have these other health problems. How can I best manage them together?
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment.
What to expect from your doctor
A doctor who sees you for possible aortic valve stenosis may ask:
- What are your symptoms?
- When did you first begin experiencing symptoms?
- Have your symptoms gotten worse over time?
- Do your symptoms include rapid, fluttering or pounding heartbeats?
- Do your symptoms include dizziness?
- Have you ever fainted?
- Have you ever coughed up blood?
- Does exercise or physical exertion make your symptoms worse?
- Are you aware of any history of heart problems in your family?
- Have you ever knowingly had rheumatic fever?
- Are you being treated or have you recently been treated for any other health conditions?
- Do you or did you smoke? How much?
- Do you use alcohol or caffeine? How much?
- Are you planning to become pregnant in the future?
What you can do in the meantime
While you wait for your appointment, check with your family members to find out if any close relatives have been diagnosed with cardiac disease. The symptoms of aortic valve stenosis are similar to a number of other heart conditions, including some that tend to run in families. Knowing as much as possible about your family's health history will help your doctor determine next steps for your diagnosis and treatment.
If exercise makes your symptoms worse, avoid exerting yourself physically until you've been seen by your doctor.
Jul. 13, 2012
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- How the healthy heart works. American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/CongenitalHeartDefects/AboutCongenitalHeartDefects/How-the-Healthy-Heart-Works_UCM_307016_Article.jsp. Accessed June 12, 2011.
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