All your heart’s valves (4 in total) are designed to keep blood flowing in one direction by closing to prevent back flow. With mitral valve prolapse, the valve between your heart’s left atrium and left ventricle doesn’t close fitly because it bulges.
Mitral valve prolapse is estimated to affect nearly 10% of the population. However, most of those with it never experience symptoms nor need to change their lifestyle because of it. And there’s nothing you can do to prevent it.
For many with this heart condition, their valve is prolapsed without causing any symptoms and considered harmless. But for a few, when their valve doesn’t close tightly blood leaks backward into their atrium, what’s referred to as mitral regurgitation. And for them, they’ll likely experience symptoms of mitral valve prolapse syndrome.
Mitral valve prolapse syndrome is a group of symptoms that are commonly caused by mitral regurgitation, including:
- chest pain
- anxiety, panic
- dizziness, lightheadedness
- dyspnea when lying flat, during physical activity
These mitral valve prolapse syndrome symptoms are often mild and usually develop slowly. And having hypertension or being overweight increases your risk for mitral valve regurgitation.
Again, most with mitral valve prolapse never have any health problems. Yet, it can cause these complications:
If your mitral valves is structurally abnormal it raises the risk for bacterial infection.
Mitral valve prolapse has been linked to other conditions, like:
- Graves disease
- Marfan syndrome
- Ebstein’s anomaly
- osteogenesis imperfecta
- Ehlers-Danlos syndrome
- polycystic kidney disease
Interestingly, mitral valve prolapse frequently affects thin women who have certain other health conditions.
In most, mitral valve prolapse doesn’t require treatment nor any lifestyle changes. If you have mild mitral valve prolapse syndrome symptoms, then taking medication may be all that’s need.
Medications you might be prescribed for treating your mitral valve prolapse syndrome symptoms include:
- aspirin ~ reduces risk of blood clots
- propranolol ~ palpitations, chest pain
- diuretic ~ remove excess fluid in lungs
- anti-arrhythmic ~ control irregular heartbeats
- vasodilator ~ dilate blood vessels for easier heart work
- beta blocker ~ makes heart beat slower & relaxes blood vessels
- anticoagulant aka blood thinners (Coumadin) ~ blood clot, atrial fibrillation prevention, not without dangerous drug side effects
However, if your regurgitation causes you severe health issues, then surgery to repair or replace the mitral valve will be necessary to prevent complications, i.e. heart failure.
Mitral valve repair surgery preserves your own valve and is the preferred surgical treatment to correct this health condition. With this surgery your own valve is modified to stop the backward flow of blood.
Valve replacement is the most radical form of mitral valve prolapse treatment. During surgery, your damaged valve is replaced with an artificial one, either a mechanical and tissue type.
Mechanical valves last a long time, but an anticoagulant will be required to be taken for life to prevent blood clots from forming on the valve. Tissue valves are made from animal tissue and they tend to wear out and need replacing. But you won’t need to take anticoagulants.
As such, both types of surgical valve replacements have pros and cons. And both treatments involve significant recovery time.
For those that have mitral valve prolapse, routine antibiotics before other surgical procedures are no longer recommended unless you’ve had bacterial endocarditis in the past. And antibiotics might be given during childbirth if there’s a risk of an infection.