Mitral Valve Prolapse

Your Care Explained > Conditions and Diagnoses : Mitral Valve Prolapse

Mitral valve prolapse (MVP) is the bulging of one or both of the mitral valve flaps into the left atrium during the contraction of the heart. The bulging prevents the flap from closing properly, allowing the blood to leak backward, or regurgitate.

Mitral regurgitation, if present at all, is generally mild, and most people with MVP have few symptoms. There is evidence that women with moderate to severe mitral valve regurgitation are less likely to have procedures to repair or replace the valves, even though these procedures are equally effective in women and men.

Causes of MVP

The cause of MVP is unknown, but the disorder is often hereditary. It is often found in people with genetic connective tissue diseases, and in women who have scoliosis. Yet it is most often seen in persons with no other form of heart disease. When it is acquired later in life, it is often the result of damage to the mitral valve from heart attack, rheumatic heart disease or hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

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Diagnosing MVP

MVP is usually detected during a routine physical when the doctor hears a click or murmur through the stethoscope. It is confirmed through echocardiography, which can determine the amount of mitral valve regurgitation. When symptoms or regurgitation is severe, a stress test or cardiac catheterization may be warranted.

Symptoms of MVP

Most women with MVP do not have any symptoms. When they do, symptoms are similar to those of other heart conditions. People with MVP may feel shortness of breath, dizziness, either “skipping” or “racing” heartbeats, chest pains and sometimes panic attacks.

Treating MVP

If you have no symptoms or if they are mild, you will probably not need treatment. Your doctor may recommend an annual physical exam and an echocardiogram every five years. If the symptoms make you uncomfortable, beta-blockers may be effective. Sometimes avoiding caffeine and drinking lots of water can keep symptoms at bay.

It’s important not to let an MVP diagnosis interfere with your life. If you are symptom-free or have only mild symptoms, you can—and should—exercise as much as you can. As always, take other steps to reduce your risk factors for heart disease, including following a healthful diet, avoiding cigarettes and keeping your weight in check.

Nutrition and Prevention

Reference these links for information on how to prevent heart disease and how to live a healthy lifestyle.

Date Last Modified: January 21, 2011

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