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The mitral valve is part of the human heart that regulates the blood flow from the left atrium to the left ventricle. However, when a person has mitral valve prolapse (MVP), part of the mitral valve finds its way into the left atrium, bulging with each heartbeat. Mitral valve prolapse is different from mitral valve stenosis as in the second case, the mitral valve is not loose but stiff and constrained. In the case of MVP, the bulging into the left atrium is attributed to the inability of two valve flaps of the mitral valve to close smoothly and evenly. This paper will examine the causes and symptoms of this condition and provide basic guidelines for diagnosis and treatment including advice on lifestyle changes in patients.
Causes and Symptoms
For most of the patients with MVP, it is almost impossible to find the underlying cause. However, there is evidence that there might be a certain genetic predisposition towards developing mitral valve prolapse, and namely, abnormally flexible valve flaps or connective tissue diseases. Some studies point to the probable inheritable nature of this condition as it may run in families (Dina et al., 2015).
A share of people affected by MVP also displays slight deformities in their other body tissues such as bones. Lastly, some researchers claim that there is some connection between the Marfan syndrome – a genetic disorder of the connective tissue – and mitral valve prolapse (Dina et al., 2015). Mitral valve prolapse symptoms are usually from barely noticeable to mild. If present, typical symptoms include irregular heartbeat and palpitations, fatigue, dizziness, weakness, and panic attacks characterized by a sudden feeling of extreme anxiety.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Mitral valve prolapse is usually an asymptomatic disorder that can go unnoticed by patients for years on end. For the majority of those who are affected by this condition, the situation is far from life-threatening and does not require urgent medical intervention. Since the symptoms are mild and usually do not compel a person to seek medical help immediately, the majority of MVP cases are discovered during routine checkups. With a stethoscope, a medical professional may hear the slight murmur and the clicking noise, and an ultrasound of the heart helps to confirm the diagnosis (Huether & McCance, 2017).
The majority of MVP patients do not need any treatment and should only monitor their condition with regular doctor appointments. However, in some cases, blood leakage and tissue deformity might be so severe that a patient may need MVP replacement surgery. As for the patients with non-life-threatening cases of MVP, a doctor might suggest lifestyle changes to accommodate the disorder. For instance, they need to pay attention to their blood pressure and keep it low. Another thoughtful piece of advice might include adopting healthier dietary habits.
Mitral valve prolapse is a non-life-threatening condition with mild symptoms. MVP is characterized by the inability of two valve flaps to close properly which leads to mitral valve dislocation into the left atrium as the heartbeats. In many patients, the causes of this disorder are unknown; however, in some cases, MVP might be attributed to connectivity tissue diseases such as Marfan’s syndrome or tissue deformities of a genetic nature.
Many patients do not display any symptoms and those who do complain about fatigue, chest pain, tachycardia, and heart palpitations. MVP can be diagnosed with a stethoscope exam and an ultrasound, and later, a patient will need to make regular appointments to monitor his or her condition. Sometimes, surgery is necessary, but in the majority of cases, no medical treatment and healthy lifestyle choices suffice.
Dina, C., Bouatia-Naji, N., Tucker, N., Delling, F. N., Toomer, K., Durst, R.,… & Chen, M. H. (2015). Genetic association analyses highlight biological pathways underlying mitral valve prolapse. Nature genetics, 47(10), 1206.
Huether, S.E., & McCance, K.L. (2017). Understanding pathophysiology, (6th ed.). London, UK: Elsevier Health Sciences.