Mitral Valve Prolapse

Mitral valve prolapse is a condition that occurs when the mitral valve of the heart doesn’t work properly. This valve controls the flow of blood between the upper left chamber of the heart (the left atrium) and the lower left chamber (the left ventricle). Normally, the mitral valve forms a tight seal between the two when it needs to. But with mitral valve prolapse, the valve doesn’t seal tightly, which can cause blood to flow back in the opposite direction. This in turn can cause a variety of heart complications.

About 2 to 3 percent of the U.S. population has mitral valve prolapse. It occurs when growths of collagen form on the leaflets of the valve. This can be because of a genetic disorder or a complication of another condition later in life.

Symptoms of Mitral Valve Prolapse

Sometimes mitral valve prolapse presents no symptoms at all. When it does cause symptoms, they're usually related to blood leaking in the wrong direction through the valve. Symptoms can include heart palpitations, shortness of breath, fatigue, dizziness and chest pain. In rare instances, mitral valve prolapse can lead to additional health complications, such as an arrhythmia, which is an irregular heartbeat, or endocarditis, an infection of the heart often caused by bacteria.

Treatment

In most people, mitral valve prolapse causes only minor problems. Most show no symptoms, and their condition does not require treatment. When mitral valve prolapse does present mild symptoms, these usually can be managed with prescription medications. Only in rare instances does mitral valve prolapse require heart valve surgery, which involves repairing the faulty mitral valve to restore normal blood flow to the heart.

SOURCES: U.S. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute; American Heart Association

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