Mitral Valve Prolapse Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

The mitral valve is a one-way valve in the left side of the heart that can be affected by two main malfunctions:

It can be stiff and heavily calcified and therefore does not open well, a condition known as Mitral Stenosis. It can have a severe leakage because of a deformity or localized rupture that prevents it from closing well, a condition known as Mitral Insufficiency or Regurgitation

The mitral valve is one of 4 valves in the heart. It opens and closes to control blood flow between the heart’s left atrium and the left ventricle. The mitral valve has 2 flaps, or “leaflets.”

In mitral valve prolapse, one or both leaflets of the valve are too large, or the chordae tendinea (the strings attached to the underside of the leaflets, connected to the ventricular wall) are too long (redundant), resulting in uneven closure of the valve during each heartbeat. Because of uneven closure of the leaflets, the valve bulges back, or “prolapses,” into the left atrium like a parachute. When this happens, a very small amount of blood may leak through, moving backward from the ventricle to the atrium.

The valve still works well, and the heart pumps normally. Prolapse does not cause damage to the heart over time. Only 2% of people have other structural heart problems along with mitral valve prolapse.

Previously called the most common heart valve abnormality, mitral valve prolapse was thought to have affected 5-20% of the general population, mainly women. Now with newer, wiser echocardiographic criteria, it is thought to affect only 2-3% of the general population, and it is most often diagnosed in people aged 20-40 years.

Mitral Valve Prolapse Causes:

Up to 40% of people have dysautonomia, an imbalance of the autonomic nervous system. This is the part of the nervous system that controls involuntary body functions such as breathing and the beating of the heart. This may lead to a large number of symptoms that seem serious to the person with the symptoms but are usually not serious (that is, they are not heart conditions).

Mitral Valve Prolapse Symptoms:

About 60% of people with mitral valve prolapse have no symptoms. A stressful situation, such as childbirth, job change, or viral illness, can bring on symptoms that may include the following:

Irregular heartbeat or palpitations, especially while lying on the left side

Chest pain – Sharp, dull, or pressing, lasting from a few seconds to several hours, usually not related to myocardial ischemia (that is, not a threatened heart attack)

Mitral Valve Prolapse Treatment:

Mitral valve prolapse usually requires no specific treatment, except reassurance, since most people do not have serious underlying heart disease. Rather, care focuses on minor changes a person can make that may prevent symptoms.

The condition usually requires no activity restrictions, but the person should avoid competitive sports if he has a definite click and murmur of significant mitral insufficiency. Most people have minimal, if any, mitral insufficiency.