Mitral Valve Prolapse
What is mitral valve prolapse (MVP)?
- The heart has four rooms or chambers in it that hold blood. The upper chambers are called atria (A-tre-ah) and the lower chambers are called ventricles (VEN-tri-kls). Between the chambers are valves. These valves act as one-way doors to direct the flow of blood through the heart. The mitral (MI-tral) valve is made up of two leaflets (flaps) that open and close to control blood flow to the left ventricle. Mitral valve prolapse (PRO-laps) happens when the leaflets of the mitral valve in your heart do not close properly.
- MVP may also be called click-murmur syndrome or floppy-valve syndrome. With MVP, the leaflets may not work right because they are too big or floppy. MVP can also happen if the chords that hold the leaflets in place become stretched or swollen. When listening to your heart, your caregiver may hear a clicking sound because of the floppy leaflets. Some of the blood from the ventricle may come backward into the atrium because the leaflets do not work right. This causes a leaking or "whooshing" sound, which is called a murmur.
What causes MVP?
MVP is common, even in healthy people. You can be born with MVP or may develop it later in life. MVP may be genetic (runs in the family). Your MVP may have been caused by a childhood illness such as rheumatic fever. Having certain other health conditions may increase your chance of having MVP. Many times the cause of MVP is not known.
What are the signs and symptoms of MVP?
You may not know you have MVP until caregivers listen to your heart. Most people with MVP never have any symptoms. Symptoms that sometimes occur with MVP include:
- Chest pain or tightness.
- Feeling faint, dizzy, or lightheaded.
- Feeling unusually tired.
- Heart palpitations (you feel like your heart is pounding).
- Skipped heart beats, or an irregular or fast heart rate.
- Shortness of breath.
How is MVP diagnosed?
Your caregiver may diagnose your MVP after a physical exam and listening to your heart. A chest x-ray may be done so your caregiver can rule out other problems. You may need an electrocardiogram (e-lek-tro-KAHR-de-o-gram), or EKG. An EKG is a test that senses the electrical activity of your heart muscle. You may need to wear a portable heart monitor at home for a short time. You may need an ultrasound of your heart called an echocardiogram (ek-o-KAHR-de-o-gram). An echocardiogram can find problems with your heart and valves that do not show up on an EKG or in an x-ray.
How is MVP treated?
Most people with MVP do not need any treatment and lead a normal, active life. Rarely, medicine or surgery may be needed to treat MVP. You can lower your risk of developing problems by taking these precautions:
- Always tell your medical and dental caregivers that you have MVP. Certain procedures may allow germs to get into your blood and travel to your heart. This may cause an infection of the lining of your heart and valves. You may need to take antibiotic (an-ti-bi-AH-tik) medicine before procedures (such as teeth cleanings) to prevent this.
- Avoid foods and drinks that contain caffeine. Examples of things that have caffeine include coffee, some teas, colas, and chocolate.
- Avoid high-calorie foods, such as simple sugars and fats.
- Avoid extreme heat and humidity.
- Being under stress can make some MVP symptoms such as chest pain or palpitations worse. Since it is hard to avoid stress, learn to control it. Learn new ways to relax, such as deep breathing, meditation (med-i-TA-shun), relaxing your muscles, music, or biofeedback. Ask your caregiver for more information about any of these. Talk to someone about things that upset you.
- Begin a regular exercise program. Talk to your caregiver before you start exercising. Together, you and your caregiver can plan the best exercise program for you. It is best to start slowly and do more as you get stronger. Exercising makes the heart stronger, lowers blood pressure, and keeps you healthy.
- Drink plenty of water before, during, and after hard activity.
- It is never too late to quit smoking. Smoking harms the heart, lungs, and the blood. You are more likely to have a heart attack, lung disease, and cancer if you smoke. You will help yourself and those around you by not smoking. Ask your caregiver for more information about how to stop smoking if you are having trouble quitting.
- Some over-the-counter medicines may increase your chance of having heart palpitations. Avoid medications that have epinephrine (ep-i-NEF-rin), ephedrine (e-FED-rin), or ephedra (ma haung). Examples of these medicines include cough and cold medicines, asthma medicines, weight loss foods and medicines, and herbal supplements. Talk to your caregiver before taking medicine that contains epinephrine, ephedrine, or ephedra (ma haung).
- See your caregiver for checkups on a regular basis.
Most people with MVP do not have symptoms and live a normal life. With MVP, you may be at a higher risk of getting a serious infection in your heart. Some people can develop heart rhythm problems that can be serious, even life-threatening.
You may feel scared, confused, or anxious because of your MVP. Call or write the following organizations for more information.
- American Heart Association
7272 Greenville Avenue
Dallas , TX 75231-4596
Phone: 1- 800 - 242-8721
Web Address: http://www.heart.org
- American College of Cardiology
2400 North Street Northwest
Washington , DC 20037
Phone: 1- 202 - 375-6000
Web Address: http://www.acc.org
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute
Health Information Center
P.O. Box 30105
Bethesda , MD 20824-0105
Phone: 1- 301 - 592-8573
Web Address: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/infoctr/index.htm
You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.