What is Mitral Valve Prolapse?

I thought I was crazy at first. At 18 years old I began having severe chest pains, shortness of breath and fatigue. I would rush to the E.R. and by the time they got me back into a room I felt fine. There was no more pain, and I was fine. I began to wonder if I was a hypochondriac, and the doctors at the E.R. began treating me like one… until I was finally diagnosed with Mitral Valve Prolapse. And even after they were able to put a name to it… they treated it like it was nothing, and still sent me on my merry way, which was probably all that much more crazy making! I have someone telling me that there is something abnormal about my heart, my body’s fuel pump, and yet it’s nothing to worry about? How is that possible?

As it turns out Mitral Valve Prolapse (MVP) is rather simple to explain. The mitral valve of your heart control the blood flow from the upper and lower left chambers of your heart, sometimes collapsing in on itself and allowing a slight amount of back flow. Physicians may discover this on a routine check up if they hear a clicking sound on your heart beat when the valve snaps shut, or they may pick up on a murmur when there is a backflow or regurgitation present. This condition has also been referred to as Floppy mitral valve, Myxomatous mitral valve, Billowing mitral valve, Systolic click-murmur syndrome, Prolapsing mitral leaflet syndrome, irritable heart, soldier’s heart, the effort syndrome, Barlow’s Syndrome and DaCosta’s Syndrome. It is actually a very common disorder that is present in between %5 and %20 of the population, affecting %7.6 of women and %2.5 of men.

Studies indicate that MVP is hereditary. Once a person is diagnosed they should inform immediate family to be checked for it. Generally they have linked several pre-existing physical traits to MVP. These include: pectus excavatum depression of the breast bone, scoliosis curvature of the spine, abnormally straight thoracic spine straight back, arm span greater than height, unusual joint flexibility, and low body weight. However MVP is in now way unique to these characteristics.
In most cases there are no physical symptoms and life proceeds as normal.

For the rest of us though… MVP can be very symptomatic. Symptoms can include Chest pain, Fatigue, Palpitations, extra heart beat, Lightheadedness, dizziness, Shortness of breath, Anxiety and/or panic attacks, Headaches, Low exercise tolerance, Mood swings. Women may notice a higher rate of occurrence of these symptoms around their menstrual cycle or during menopause. Over all symptoms may also be aggravated by stress or illness.

Generally MVP does not require any special treatment, though in some cases the palpitations and pain may be severe enough that your doctor might prescribe a beta blocker or a blood thinner so that the heart doesn’t have to work so hard. Only in the case of severe regurgitation do they have to surgically repair the valve. The only other major concern with MVP is preventing infections that can possibly affect the valve. All this means is that before dental work or any sort of surgery your doctor may recommend antibiotics. this may also be a concern during labor and delivery for pregnant women.

Over all it is not something that should alter your life, or be a cause of worry, even though it can at times be quite painful. It is recommended that you see your doctor and have it checked up on every 3-5 years to insure that the condition does not worsen. Increased symptoms are not indicative of the condition worsening.

Over all, if you are experiencing these symptoms, and doctors are telling you not to worry… no you’re not crazy, it really is happening to you. However it is not something to be overly concerned about, other than having regular check ups, and if necessary having the symptoms treated. A little research on the subject can go a long way to lay fears to rest on the topic.

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