Mitral Valve Prolapse (MVP) - A Heart Condition

by Sam Malone


Mitral Valve Prolapse is a condition in which the mitral valve does not close properly, so that the blood which must normally flow from the left atrium to the left ventricle flows back into the left atrium. This condition is known as mitral valve regurgitation.

Mitral valve prolapse can cause a lot of anxiety because of the symptoms associated with it. These include palpitations, chest pain and shortness of breath, symptoms that in a layman’s mind are often associated with a heart attack. For most people however, mitral valve prolapse is not a very serious precaution and doesn't require any treatment apart from certain lifestyle changes.

These lifestyle changes include quitting smoking, exercising regularly and following a well-balanced, nutritious diet with plenty of green vegetables and fruits. Alcohol is bad for people with mitral valve prolapse and should therefore be avoided. Other dietary restrictions include a curb on sugar and nervous stimulants such as caffeine. Apart from these lifestyle changes, a person suffering from mitral valve prolapse can more often than not, continue to lead a normal life.

Mitral valve prolapse is also known as click-murmur syndrome because of the peculiar clicking sound made by the abnormal mitral valve. This abnormal sound may be heard through the stethoscope when it is placed against the chest. Other names for mitral valve prolapse include Barlow’s syndrome, floppy valve syndrome or billowing mitral valve syndrome.

Mitral valve prolapse is a lifelong disorder, but many people never experience any kind of symptoms, frequently being unaware that anything is amiss. In many cases it is diagnosed accidentally during routine screening tests. Signs and symptoms of mitral valve prolapse when they do occur, may be mild in the initial phases and develop gradually. They include:

  • An irregular or rapid heartbeat, also known as arrhythmia
  • Dizziness
  • Breathing difficulties including breathlessness, especially when lying down or during periods of physical exertion
  • Fatigue
  • A persistent cough
  • Chest pain

If you have any of these symptoms you should consult your doctor immediately because there are many other conditions that cause similar symptoms but which may be more serious. You should also consult your doctor immediately if your symptoms worsen.

Those suffering from mitral valve prolapse who do not exhibit any symptoms usually do not require and form of treatment. However, those who do exhibit symptoms may require treatment which will depend on the severity of the symptoms. Usually, treatment with medications is adequate although in the more severe cases surgery may be required. Medications that may be prescribed by your doctor include:

  • Beta Blockers: These medications help to relax the heart muscles and lower the heart rate as well as the force with which the heart pumps blood. This lowers blood pressure, improves the flow of blood and helps to prevent arrhythmias that may arise due to the faulty mitral valve.
  • Aspirin: This drug helps to prevent the formation of blood clots and may be prescribed if you have a family history of strokes.
  • Anticoagulants: Medications such as warfarin (Coumadin) may be prescribed to prevent blood from clotting and to thin the blood. They may be prescribed if you have atrial fibrillation or a family history of strokes or heart failure.

If you have severe mitral valve regurgitation, your doctor may recommend surgery to prevent your condition from progressing to heart failure. This is a condition where the heart is weakened and cannot pump blood effectively. Prolonged periods of mitral valve regurgitation can make your heart muscles too weak to tolerate surgery, which is why it is better to have the faulty valve replaced at an earlier stage.

Reference:

  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001232/

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