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Mitral Valve Prolapse by Stephanie Murphy

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Mitral valve prolapse is a heart condition where the mitral valve does not work properly. The mitral valve is made up of two flaps that separate the left ventricle and the left atrium. In the case of a properly working mitral valve, it opens and closes to let blood flow from the left atrium to the left ventricle. It would close tightly creating a seal, thus preventing blood from flowing back into the atrium. In cases of mitral valve prolapse, the flaps of the mitral valve do not create a tight seal. They cannot close completely or they can pull backward, causing a slight opening.

Some patients have regurgitation of blood due to the prolapse of the valve, where some blood can flow back into the left atrium, this is a condition known as Mitral Valve Regurgitation. This is a rare case and can cause pain in the chest, shortness of breath, or arrhythmias, known as irregular heartbeats. This regurgitation can increase in amount over time. In cases with severe backflow, the mitral valve may need to be surgically repaired or replaced.

Patients with mitral valve prolapse typically do not show symptoms of the prolapse. Symptoms could include shortness of breath, coughing, chest pain, or palpitations of the heart. Due to the lack of noticeable symptoms, the condition is usually only caught by physicians during regular physicals. They recognize it by a clicking sound or a possible murmur when listening to the heart. Further examination is necessary; an echocardiogram creates a moving picture of the heart. The echocardiogram shows the heart’s shape and size and the prolapse of the valve. A Doppler ultrasound can measure the amount of regurgitation, if any, of the mitral valve and can be done along with the echocardiogram. Other tests could also be performed such as an EKG or heart monitor.

Mitral valve prolapse does put patients at risk for infective endocarditis, an infection in which bacteria attack the mitral valve. It is important to work to prevent infective endocarditis, as it is a severe disease. Some preventive steps include brushing and flossing your teeth, visiting a dentist regularly, and contacting a doctor if you have gum infections, infections, or a sore throat. The affected mitral valve is more susceptible to bacteria from oral infections, as the bacteria can enter the bloodstream and attack the weaker flaps of the valve.

Almost anyone can be affected by mitral valve prolapse and it is hereditary. The cause of the condition is unknown other than there is some change in the valve of the heart causing it to function differently. Most people who are diagnosed with mitral valve prolapse do not show symptoms or have complications and can therefore live a normal life without treatment. As far as living with mitral valve prolapse, it is recommended to visit a cardiologist regularly to track any changes in severity or the amount of regurgitation. Your doctor may recommend that your regular appointments are every three to five years, this would be determined by the severity of your mitral valve prolapse and/or regurgitation. It is also recommended to practice good oral health care to help prevent infective endocarditis.


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