It has been estimated that approximately 60 percent of people diagnosed with mitral valve prolapse do not have any noticeable symptoms. In fact, many are surprised when they are told by their physician that they have MVP.
MVP Symptoms Due to Valve Regurgitation
The remaining 40 percent are likely to experience symptoms that are caused by a more severe incidence of mitral valve regurgitation --- blood leaking back through the valve after the heart pumps.
Symptoms of mitral valve prolapse might include:
- Racing or irregular heartbeat - Dizziness or lightheadedness - Shortness of breath - Fatigue - inadequate blood oxygen delivery to the working muscles during exercise - Palpitations - Sharp chest pains - Anxiety, panic attacks and depression related to imbalances of the autonomic nervous system - Migraine headaches - Rare strokes in young patients
Cause of Mitral Valve Prolapse Largely Unknown
It has been discovered through scientific studies and research that those with MVP tend to fit a certain medical profile. For example, their bodies are long and lean, they have straight backs and they have imbalances of the autonomic nervous system.
It is also known that mitral valve prolapse is inherited and often runs in families. However, its causes are largely unknown, other than it occurs when the mitral apparatus -- the flaps and chords that control the opening and closing of the valve -- thickens, enlarges and lengthens due to an abnormal formation of collagen. It is this extra tissue that causes the valve to flop backwards, or prolapse, into the left atrium after each heart contraction.
Echocardiograms Confirm MVP Diagnosis
Mitral valve prolapse is typically discovered during a physical examination when patients inform the physician about symptoms or conditions they are experiencing that are characteristic of MVP.
If MVP is suspected, an echocardiogram that generates ultrasound imaging of the heart may be recommended. It can help determine how severe the prolapse is and how much regurgitation occurs, both of which impact the degree to which a patient experiences symptoms.
Holter and event monitors are also sometimes used to detect arrhythmias and palpitations.
Little Treatment for MVP
While the symptoms can be unsettling and challenging, mitral valve prolapse isn't a life-threatening condition. In most cases, treatment or lifestyle changes aren't necessary.
Although not intended to treat MVP itself, doctors have in the past prescribed antibiotics to patients with mitral valve prolapse who undergo medical and dental procedures in which bacteria may enter the bloodstream. This is done to prevent endocarditis, a valve infection that is rare, but a potentially serious complication.
The American Heart Association recently changed this recommendation to include only patients that have undergone heart valve or other replacement surgery.
MVP Patients Usually Have Good Prognosis
Once they've accepted the diagnosis and learned to live with any symptoms, most people with mitral valve prolapse will lead relatively normal lives and shouldn't expect to undergo any special treatment. A routine exam and the occasional echocardiogram should be all that's necessary to monitor it.