American Hospital Blog

Mitral Valve Prolapse

Mitral Valve Prolapse

Mitral valve prolapse causes the covers (leaflets) of the heart's mitral valve to bulge (prolapse), similar to a parachute into the heart's left upper chamber (left atrium) as the heart contracts.

This condition may lead to blood leaking backwards into the left atrium, referred to as mitral valve regurgitation. This disease is not life-threatening in most cases and may not require treatment or changes in lifestyle. Only a few cases of mitral valve prolapse need treatment.

Understand the symptoms

The mitral valve prolapse is a lifelong ailment, but usually, people don't have symptoms and are surprised to know they have this disease.

Some signs may occur because blood is leaking backwards through the valve, and symptoms broadly differ from one individual to another, tend to be mild and develop gradually.

Symptoms include fatigue, dizziness or lightheadedness, a racing or irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), and causing difficulty in breathing and/or shortness of breath, often during physical activity or when lying flat.

Consult the doctor

Talk to the doctor when you experience any symptoms, allowing the doctor to diagnose the exact cause of the signs. When there is chest pain, and you suspect it is a heart attack, seek emergency medical care immediately. When you have already been diagnosed with mitral valve prolapse, consult your doctor quickly if the symptoms begin to worsen.

Know the causes

The mitral valve regulates the function of blood between the upper and lower chambers of the left side of the heart. When the heart functions correctly, the mitral valve closes completely as the heart pumps, preventing the blood from flowing back to the upper left chamber (left atrium).

However, in some cases, one or both of the mitral valve leaflets have extra tissue or stretch beyond usually needed, causing them to bulge like a parachute into the left atrium each time the heart contracts. This bulging keeps the valve from closing tightly, and in a few conditions, the blood leaks backwards through the valve (mitral valve regurgitation).

Some amount of blood leaks back into the left atrium is not a cause of concern, but more severe mitral valve regurgitation may result in symptoms like shortness of breath, fatigue or lightheadedness.

Mitral valve prolapse is referred to as a click-murmur syndrome. The doctor hears a clicking sound as the valve's leaflets billow back, followed by a whooshing sound (murmur) due to blood flowing back to the atrium.

Mitral valve prolapse is also called Barlow's syndrome, Floppy valve syndrome, Billowing mitral valve syndrome and Myxomatous mitral valve disease.

Recognize the risks

This condition may occur to any person at any age, but serious symptoms usually happen in men over 50 years. Mitral valve prolapse can be hereditary and is associated with several other conditions, like:
• Marfan syndrome
• Ehlers-Danlos syndrome
• Ebstein anomaly
• Muscular dystrophy
• Graves' disease
• Scoliosis

Associated complexities

Most people with mitral valve prolapse never face problems, but some complications can occur, such as:
• Mitral valve regurgitation, wherein the valve leaks blood back into the left atrium. Primarily men and those with high blood pressure are prone to this condition. In severe cases of regurgitation, surgery is needed to repair or replace the valve to prevent heart failure.
• Heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias), wherein irregular heart rhythms happen in the heart's upper chambers that are bothersome but not life-threatening. Those facing severe mitral valve regurgitation or severe mitral valve deformity are prone to having rhythm problems that affect blood movement through the heart.
• Heart valve infection (endocarditis) is when the heart's inner lining, called the endocardium, gets infected. An abnormal mitral valve makes you prone to getting endocarditis from bacteria, further damaging the mitral valve.

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