by Kimberly Allen RN
Mitral valve prolapse or MVP is the most commonly diagnosed congenital heart valve disorder. Experts estimate that up to 10% of the worlds population suffer from MVP. The mitral valve is located between the left atrium and the left ventricle in the heart. Mitral valve prolapse can develop in anyone at any time however, it is more common in men over 50 years of age. Mitral valve prolapse cal also run in families, in fact Drs estimate that approximately 30% of people diagnosed with MVP have a family history of MVP. There are also several other conditions that can cause MVP including marfan syndrome and scoliosis.
The mitral valves function is to open to allow the blood to flow from the left atrium to the left ventricle then close to prevent blood from flowing backward into the left atrium when the left ventricle contracts. In MVP the mitral valve doesn’t close completely allowing blood to flow back into the left atrium. The most common reason is called myxomatous degeneration. This causes the abnormal formation of protein collagen to form on the valve making it thicker and larger than normal. Then when the ventricle contracts the valve flops backwards allowing the blood to flow backwards which is called mitral regurgitation.
Many people with MVP have no symptoms and are actually surprised when diagnosed. However, some people do have symptoms and they can vary significantly from person to person. Usually, symptoms of MVP develop slowly with mild symptoms that increase over time. Some people experience a rapid. racing heart beat while others have an irregular heart rhythm. Dizziness and/or light headedness as well as fatigue have also been reported. More severe symptoms include shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, especially when lying down flat or during periods of physical activity and chest pain that is not due to other cardiac issues like coronary artery disease or heart attack.
If you have symptoms and they worsen contact your Dr because left untreated it can cause complications. The most common complication of MVP is mitral insufficiency which is also made worse by hypertension and being over weight. If the degree of regurgitation is severe it can lead to heart failure. Irregular rhythms are another common complication that can develop in people with MVP. These arrhythmias are in the upper chamber of the heart and usually are not life threatening. However, people that have a severe mitral valve deformity are also prone to more serious arrhythmias. The mitral regurgitation in people with MVP can also cause the heart to become enlarged or even heart failure in addition to arrhythmias. People with MVP also have a much higher risk of blood clots which can lead to strokes and other issues associated with blood clots.
Endocarditis though a rare occurrence is an infection of the thin membrane that lines the heart known as the endocardium. The damaged valve increases your chance of bacteria getting in to your heart. In fact in the past Drs with patients that had been diagnosed with MVP would give them antibiotics before having dental work to prevent infection. However, that is no longer practiced because most Drs believe prophylactic antibiotic treatment can lead to resistant bacteria which in the end would cause more serious complications. Most people with MVP are asymptomatic and get regular check ups with an electrocardiogram every few years to check for any changes. Many Drs will give medications like blood thinners to prevent complications from blood clots. Some Drs also give beta blockers to help prevent an irregular heart beat. If the damage is severe you may require valve repair or replacement surgery. Both require open heart surgery and a significant recovery time. Though surgical techniques have improved significantly open heart surgery is a major operation and should be considered only after all other options have been exhausted.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.