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Mitral Valve Prolapse and Other Valvular Heart Diseases

What are mitral valve prolapse and other valvular heart diseases?
Valves are made of paper-thin structures called leaflets that act as doorways between the chambers of the heart. When the heart valve is open, the blood flows from one chamber to another. When the valve is closed, the blood is prevented from flowing back into the previous chamber. A normal, healthy heart valve opens freely, allowing blood to flow smoothly in one direction; when the valve closes, it remains completely closed and does not allow any blood to leak back through the valve.

The heart has four valves. The mitral and tricuspid valves, which control blood flow from the upper chambers (atria) to the lower chambers (ventricles) of the heart; and the aortic and pulmonary valves, which control blood flow out of the ventricles and to the rest of the body.

A leaky heart valve is a condition in which blood leaks backward through the valve after the valve is closed. This is known as heart valve regurgitation. This causes the heart to work harder to pump the extra blood forward. Another valvular problem is when the valve opening narrows and causes decreased blood flow through the valve. This is referred to as valve stenosis, which increases the risk of blood clots and also causes the heart to work harder.
Mitral Valve Prolapse

Mitral valve prolapse occurs when the mitral valve leaflets (the valve that connects the two left-sided chambers of the heart) bulges into the left atrium leading to improper closure. Sometimes this bulging or prolapse is associated with significant leakage of blood through the valve (mitral regurgitation). This can be inherited or acquired. Certain conditions such as Marfanís syndrome and other connective tissue disorders are associated with mitral valve prolapse.

Aortic stenosis is a common condition affecting the aortic valve. Aortic stenosis restricts the opening of the valve due to age related calcium deposits on the valve, which restrict the opening of the valve. Bicuspid aortic valves, which are present since birth, are another abnormality of the aortic valve. Patients affected with this condition can develop severe leaking or narrowing of the valve.

Additionally, coronary artery disease, heart attacks, rheumatic fever, congenital heart disease and bacterial infection are other conditions that can cause malfunctioning of the heart valves.

Aortic Stenosis
What are the warning signs?
Not all people with valvular heart disease have symptoms. However, some patients may experience fatigue, palpitations, chest pain, cough or shortness of breath. If the valve problem is severe, it can cause congestive heart failure.

How are mitral valve prolapse and other valvular heart diseases diagnosed and treated?
Physical exams, echocardiographs and electrocardiograms are used to diagnose mitral valve prolapse and other valvular heart diseases. If the condition is mild and does not restrict a patientís activity, medical treatment may not be required. However, if the patient has developed shortness of breath or congestive heart failure, medications may be prescribed. When the disease is severe, cardiac surgery to repair or replace the heart valve may be necessary. Recently, doctors have developed methods to treat the valve disease in a non-surgical manner. Some patients with valve disease may be eligible for this treatment.

To make an appointment with a Womenís Heart NY physician, please call
(877) WOMEN-00/(877) 966-3600.

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