To keep your blood flowing smoothly (and in one direction), your heart is equipped with four small one-way valves that open and close to allow blood through, but not back. When there’s a malfunction in one of these valves, valvular disease takes hold, and some are more serious than others. Thankfully, mitral valve prolapse falls toward the less serious end of the scale, but it still bears close attention.
Providing that expert attention is our team here at Advanced Cardiovascular Specialists. We thoroughly understand how to diagnose and manage the many problems that can affect your cardiovascular health, including mitral valve prolapse.
Here’s a look at this valvular disease and how we can go about preventing serious complications.
Mitral valve prolapse 101
Your heart is a complex organ formed of four different chambers that ensure that your blood picks up the essential nutrients and oxygen your body needs. Controlling the flow are four valves that separate the chambers and open and close to keep your blood circulating in the right direction.
With mitral valve prolapse, the valve between your left atrium and left ventricle malfunctions, potentially allowing some blood to flow back into your atrium. More specifically, one or both of the flaps that come together to form your mitral valve “flop” or “balloon” back into your atrium, preventing your mitral valve from forming a tight seal.
Mitral valve prolapse affects about 2% of the population in the United States, but most don’t experience any significant issues, such as blood flowing backward into the atrium. In fact, many people with mitral valve prolapse are unaware of the condition.
That said, there are rare instances when mitral valve prolapse can lead to complications.
Symptoms and potential complications of mitral valve prolapse
As we mentioned, most people with mitral valve prolapse experience no symptoms or complications. If symptoms do arise, they typically present as:
- Heart palpitations
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain or tightness
These symptoms usually develop when there’s backflow, which can strain the muscles of your atrium and your ventricle and also potentially allow blood to flow all the way back into your lungs, which is what causes the shortness of breath. Because of the increased pressure on your heart of a moderate-to-severe mitral valve prolapse, you may develop an arrhythmia or, less commonly, infective endocarditis.
Treating symptomatic mitral valve prolapse
If you develop any of the symptoms we outline above, your first step is to come see us so that we can take a closer look at the function of your heart. If we find a severe mitral valve prolapse, we may place you on medications that can relieve your symptoms and protect you against future issues, such as:
- Blood thinners
- Beta blockers
If these medications prove unsuccessful, we may need to perform surgery on your mitral valve to correct the problem. We want to underscore that this approach is uncommon, and most people with mitral valve prolapse fare quite well with little-to-no treatment.
The important takeaway here is that if you’re experiencing heart-related symptoms of any kind, please contact our office in Mountain View, California, so that we can quickly identify and treat the issue.