The mitral valve of the heart is situated between the top and bottom ventricles on the left region of the heart. The responsibility of this valve is to ensure that the blood flows as it should through the heart in the right direction. If the mitral valve is not functioning properly, the blood will travel backward. This prevents the heart from pumping a sufficient amount of blood through the body.
There are various causes of Mitral Valve Disease, which include mitral valve stenosis, which is normally caused by a previous bout of rheumatic fever, congenital heart defects or blood clots. Mitral valve regurgitation is often caused by heart lining inflammation or a heart attack.
Many individuals who have mitral valve disease do not have any symptoms and it is normal for the symptoms to advance slowly.
People will often develop a cough, feel lightheaded or dizzy, have shortness of breath and become tired quickly.
Additional symptoms include pains in the chest area, swollen legs or ankles and a rapid heartbeat. Some individuals who have mitral valve disease also feel a tightening sensation in their chest.
Given the different types of mitral valve disease, there are multiple drivers that can lead to its development. In cases of mitral valve stenosis, the main cause is usually rheumatic fever or scarlet fever. While these conditions are relatively rare in the United States, strep throat is a common occurrence, and left untreated with an antibiotic regimen can lead to rheumatic fever. Also, while rare, there are additional risk factors for mitral valve stenosis including blood clots, calcium buildup, genetic factors, radiation treatment for cancer, and tumors infiltrating the area. In cases of mitral valve prolapse, no specific drivers or causes have been identified; however, some genetic factors may be implicated as this tends to run in families and can occur in individuals with other chronic or congenital conditions such as scoliosis or connective tissue disorders. In cases of mitral valve regurgitation, individuals at the highest risk tend to be those with a history of endocarditis, or inflammation of the lining of the heart; myocardial infarction, or heart attack; and rheumatic fever.
The type of mitral valve treatment that is required depends on the seriousness of the condition. The first form of treatment is taking prescription medications that will help prevent the symptoms and keep them from worsening. These types of drugs may include anticoagulants, beta blockers, antiarrhythmics and diuretics.
If medications are not enough, a balloon valvuloplasty may be recommended to widen the valve. The last resort is to have a surgical procedure performed to make repairs or to replace the faulty mitral valve. The types of replacement valves that can be used are biological or mechanical.
With the varied types and causes of mitral valve disease there are multiple steps that can be taken for its prevention, though as in the cases of congenital defect, prevention is not always possible. Lifestyle factors can play a major role in the prevention of mitral valve disease. Maintaining a healthy diet and regular exercise can help in preventing heart disease, which can lead to mitral valve disease. Additionally, for individuals who already have coronary artery disease, proper monitoring and treatment are essential. For those with conditions such as hypercholesterolemia and hypertension, treatment and management of progression are also important in preventing mitral valve disease. In addition, treating bacterial streptococcal infections is an integral step in preventing the development of rheumatic fever and the complications that accompany it, including mitral valve disease.