Mitral valve prolapse is an ailment where 2 valve flaps of the mitral valve do not seal efficiently or evenly, but protrude upward into the left atrium.
Once the heart pumps or contracts, a part of one or both flaps collapse backwards into the left atrium. In some instances, the prolapsed valve allows the leakage of a small amount of blood backward via the valve which causes a heart murmur.
The condition is relatively harmless. Most who have the condition are not aware of having it and overall health is not affected. Nevertheless, in some instances, treatment is required.
What are the causes?
The usual cause of mitral valve prolapse is having abnormally stretched out valve leaflets. The condition develops in around 2% of the population. An individual might be born with the genetic risk of developing the condition or can be triggered by other health issues such as connective tissue diseases.
How is it diagnosed?
Since most individuals diagnosed with mitral valve prolapse do not have any symptoms, a heart murmur might be detected during a routine physical examination once a doctor utilizes a stethoscope to assess the heart.
The common indications of the condition include the following:
- Episodes of rapid heartbeat (palpitations)
- Chest discomfort
Even in cases where there are no symptoms, if a murmur has been detected, an echocardiogram is recommended. It utilizes an ultrasound to assess the features of the valve cusps and the amount of blood that is leaking once the heart contracts.
Other tests might include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or an angiogram. The results of the tests and length of the symptoms are used by the doctor to determine if further testing is required.
In most instances, an individual with the condition will not have any effect on the health and treatment is not needed. A doctor should be consulted on how to prevent complications based on the level of risk. If the doctor provides prescription medications, they should be taken as directed.
The condition is rarely serious but in severe cases, the condition can lead to abnormal heartbeats that can become life-threatening.
Once the prolapse is severe enough to cause significant leakage from the valve, it can result to serious complications such as stroke. This occurs since significant leakage from the mitral valve can cause the formation of blood clots. Once these clots travel from the heart to the arteries or the brain, it can cause a heart attack or stroke.