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Mitral Valve Prolapse - Topic Overview

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What is mitral valve prolapse?

Your mitral valve controls blood flow on the left side of your heart. The valve opens and closes with each heartbeat. It works like a one-way gate, letting blood flow from your upper heart chamber to your lower chamber.

When you have mitral valve prolapse (MVP) , the valve closes after blood flows through. But the valve bulges backward a little. It looks like a tiny parachute or balloon as it bulges. (See a picture of mitral valve prolapse camera.gif.)

Mitral valve prolapse is the most common heart valve problem. It is more common in people who have a family history of this problem.

Is mitral valve prolapse a serious heart problem?

No. Mitral valve prolapse is not dangerous. It usually does not damage your heart. You can live a normal life without changing your activities or how you eat.

But a few people with this condition develop another problem. If the valve does not close tightly enough, blood can leak (regurgitate) into the upper chamber. This is called mitral valve regurgitation. The heart then has to work harder to pump this extra blood. Over time, this can damage the heart.

What are the symptoms?

You probably will not have any symptoms from mitral valve prolapse. You may not even know you have it until a doctor hears a "clicking" sound or a murmur when listening to your heart.

But some people may feel that their heart is beating too fast or "pounding." This feeling is called palpitations. Others may have brief chest pain.

What causes mitral valve prolapse?

Mitral valve prolapse is caused by a physical change in the valve. Physical changes such as thickening and abnormal shapes cause most of the cases of MVP. What causes these physical changes is not known. A valve problem may be passed down through family members.

How is mitral valve prolapse diagnosed?

In most cases, mitral valve prolapse is found during a regular doctor visit. If your doctor hears a certain "click" or murmur sound when listening to your heart, he or she may want you to have a test to check for mitral valve prolapse. This test is called an echocardiogram.

Will you need treatment?

You will probably not need treatment for mitral valve prolapse. Your doctor may want you to have regular exams every 3 to 5 years. A normal lifestyle and regular exercise are recommended for most people.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: January 23, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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