The exact cause of mitral valve prolapse (MVP) isn't known. Most people who have the condition are born with it. MVP tends to run in families. Also, it's more common in people who are born with connective tissue disorders, such as Marfan syndrome.
In people who have MVP, the mitral valve may be abnormal in the following ways:
These problems can keep the valve from making a tight seal. Some people's valves are abnormal in more than one way.
Get to the basics and learn how the heart works. This may help you understand the different problems that can develop in the heart, such as mitral valve prolapse, and how the heart is affected.
Most people who have mitral valve prolapse aren't affected by the condition. They don't have any symptoms or major mitral valve backflow.
When MVP does cause signs and symptoms, they may include:
MVP symptoms can vary from one person to another. They tend to be mild but can worsen over time, mainly when complications occur.
MVP complications are rare. When present, they're most often caused by the backflow of blood through the mitral valve.
Mitral valve backflow is most common among men and people who have high blood pressure. People who have severe backflow may need valve surgery to prevent complications.
Mitral valve backflow causes blood to flow from the left ventricle back into the left atrium. Blood can even back up from the atrium into the lungs, causing shortness of breath.
The backflow of blood strains the muscles of both the atrium and the ventricle. Over time, the strain can lead to arrhythmias. Backflow also increases the risk of infective endocarditis (IE). IE is an infection of the inner lining of your heart chambers and valves.
Arrhythmias are problems with the rate of rhythm of the heartbeat. The most common types of arrhythmias are harmless. Other arrhythmias can be serious or even life threatening, such as ventricular arrhythmias.
If the heart rate is too slow, too fast, or irregular, the heart may not be able to pump enough blood to the body. Lack of blood flow can damage the brain, heart, and other organs.
One troublesome arrhythmia that MVP can cause is
atrial fibrillation (AFib). In AFib, the walls of the atria quiver instead of beating normally. As a result, the atria aren't able to pump blood into the ventricles the way they should.
AFib is bothersome but rarely life threatening, unless the atria contract very fast or blood clots form in the atria. Blood clots can occur because some blood "pools" in the atria instead of flowing into the ventricles. If a blood clot breaks off and travels through the bloodstream, it can reach the brain and cause a stroke.
Infection of the Mitral Valve
A deformed mitral valve flap can attract bacteria in the bloodstream. The bacteria attach to the valve and can cause a serious infection called infective endocarditis (IE). Signs and symptoms of a bacterial infection include fever, chills, body aches, and headaches.
IE doesn't happen often, but when it does, it's serious. MVP is the most common heart condition that puts people at risk for this infection.
If you have MVP, you can take steps to prevent IE. Floss and brush your teeth regularly. Gum infections and tooth decay can cause IE.
Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Patients should call 1.855.857.9048 for a referral to a physician on The Heart Hospital Baylor medical staff that specializes in mitral valve prolapse. Referring physicians may call 469.336.3843 to schedule a patient for evaluation.
Physicians are members of the medical staff at one of Baylor Health Care System's subsidiary, community or affiliated medical centers and are neither employees nor agents of those medical centers, The Heart Hospital Baylor Plano or Baylor Health Care System.