Mitral Valve Prolapse

There are many people suffering from mitral valve prolapse without even knowing it. This is a problem in which the valve separating the upper chamber of the heart from the lower chamber on the left side of the heart does not close properly. The malfunction of the valve generally does not cause any problems, but in some cases can lead to more serious problems. Up to 10% of the population has experienced this problem without having any symptoms or having been diagnosed as having the problem.

Risk Factors

There is no known cause of mitral valve prolapse, though it appears to be hereditary in nature. The mitral valve is intended to open for blood to flow in one direction from one chamber to another. During the contraction of the heart, the valve closes to prevent the blood from going in the wrong direction. When a patient is suffering from this disease, the valve does not shut fully or at all.

While the majority of patients will not even show symptoms, the biggest problem occurs when there is a backflow of blood. Called mitral regurgitation, this can create blood flow problems and can even lead to bacterial infection.

There is no known cause of mitral valve prolapse, though it appears to be hereditary in nature. The mitral valve is intended to open for blood to flow in one direction from one chamber to another.

Certain diseases have been associated with this problem. Thin women are at risk if they have scoliosis, minor deformities in their chest wall or other kinds of disorders. Graves disease has also been known to be associated with mitral valve prolapse. Connective tissue disorders, like Marfan syndrome, have been linked to the problem as well. Additional conditions linked to this problem include:

  • Polycystic kidney disease
  • Osteogenesis imperfect
  • Ehlers-Danlos syndrome

Symptoms

In most cases, the patient will not even feel symptoms as the problem is not very intense. Generally, only those who are suffering from mitral valve prolapse syndrome are at risk of feeling any symptoms. Symptoms may not be felt at all even in extreme cases. Those who do feel symptoms may have them develop slowly over the course of their problem. These symptoms can include:

Fatigue:

  • Activity induced breathing difficulties
  • Ability to feel heart beat (palpitations)
  • Shortness of breath while lying flat (orthopnea

Cough

  • Chest Pain

Testing

The best way to detect mitral valve prolapse is through a physical. The doctor will listen to your heart and lungs using a stethoscope. If they hear a heart murmur or feel a thrill over the area of the heart, they will need to investigate further. Common investigative methods include:

  • CT scan of chest
  • Chest X-ray
  • Color-flow Doppler examination
  • ECG
  • Echocardiogram
  • Chest MRI
  • Cardiac catheterization

Treatment

In most cases, no treatment is necessary because there are no symptoms felt. Those suffering from severe mitral valve prolapse may need to stay in a hospital and undergo surgery to replace the valve. Cases which are extreme include those in which there is severe mitral regurgitation or if the symptoms you are feeling get worse over time.