Suppose you have just been diagnosed with a heart condition called mitral valve prolapse. You don’t have any symptoms and feel fine. Do you change your diet, stop exercising and resign yourself to a curtailed lifestyle? No, you don’t. The majority of people with mitral valve prolapse (MVP) are able to lead normal, productive lives without any symptoms. Here are a few tips about living with MVP and what it means to have the condition.
MVP occurs when the mitral valve does not close properly. The mitral valve is located between the heart’s upper left chamber (atrium) and lower chamber (ventricle). When the left ventricle contracts, the flaps on the valve bulge, or prolapse, upward into the atrium and do not close smoothly or evenly.
Some people with MVP also have an associated condition called mitral valve regurgitation. This occurs when blood leaks back through the prolapsed valve and into the left atrium, potentially causing a heart murmur.
MVP is a common, lifelong disorder that affects approximately three to five percent of Americans. While people of all ages are affected by the condition, women are diagnosed with MVP twice as often as men. The condition may be inherited but will not shorten your life expectancy.
Symptoms of MVP vary from person to person but can include dizziness, shortness of breath, fatigue, chest discomfort or irregular heartbeat. The severity of your symptoms may or may not be related to the seriousness of your condition. You could have recurrent symptoms, but the actual amount of blood leaking back is minor and may not require treatment.
If you do have chest pain, abnormal heart rhythm or other complications, your doctor can prescribe certain medications to relieve symptoms. Commonly prescribed medicines include beta blockers to prevent an irregular heartbeat, and aspirin or anticoagulants to reduce the risk of blood clots. If you have severe mitral valve regurgitation, your doctor may recommend surgery.
Approximately 90 percent of patients have the mitral valve repaired rather than replaced. Surgical repair typically involves either reconnecting valve flaps or removing excess tissue to eliminate backward blood flow. Replacing or tightening the valve ring may also be done to help ensure a tight closure.
Replacement surgery involves exchanging the damaged valve with either a mechanical or tissue artificial valve. A mechanical valve is made of metal and usually lasts a long time. However, you would have to take anticoagulant medication for the rest of your life to reduce the risk of blood clots that could cause a stroke.
Tissue valves are made from biologic tissues such as pig’s heart valves. While these valves can wear out and need replacement, they do not require long-term anticoagulants.
MVP cannot be prevented. If you have the condition, you most likely will not have any symptoms, encounter any problems because of MVP or need treatment. Check with your doctor about regular check-ups and take any medications as prescribed to lower your chances of developing complications.
Delray Medical Center offers complimentary heart health screenings every month. To register, please call 1-888-7-DELRAY.
For a complimentary physician referral, call 1-866-358-4DOC for a specialist near you.