What is mitral valve stenosis?
stenosis is a heart problem in which the
mitral valve doesn't open as wide as it should. It is
a lifelong disease.
When you first develop it, you most likely
have no symptoms and notice no change in your health. Symptoms develop over 10
to 20 years or more. Mitral valve stenosis can lead to
heart failure, a stroke, an infection in the heart (endocarditis),
or a fast, slow, or uneven heartbeat (arrhythmia).
How does the mitral valve work?
Your heart has
four chambers and four valves. The valves have flaps, or leaflets. The flaps
open and close to keep blood flowing in the proper direction through your
The mitral valve connects the heart's upper-left chamber
(left atrium) to the lower-left chamber (left ventricle). When the heart pumps,
blood forces the flaps open, and blood flows from the left atrium to the left
ventricle. Between heartbeats, the flaps close tightly so that blood does not
leak backward through the valve.
See a picture of the
heart and its chambers, valves, and blood flow .
See a picture of an
open and closed mitral valve .
With mitral valve stenosis, the mitral
valve becomes stiff or scarred, or the valve flaps become partially joined
together. The valve doesn't open as widely as it should. As a result, not as
much blood can flow into the left ventricle. More blood stays in the left
atrium, and blood may back up into the lungs.
See a picture of
mitral valve stenosis .
What causes mitral valve stenosis?
cases of mitral valve stenosis are caused by
rheumatic fever. This fever results from an untreated
strep infection, most often
strep throat. But many people who have mitral valve
stenosis don't realize they had rheumatic fever.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms do not usually
develop for 10 to 20 years after stenosis starts, and they may take as long as
40 years to develop. After
you develop symptoms, they may not become severe for another 3 to 10
When symptoms first appear, they usually are mild. You may
only have a few symptoms, even if your mitral valve is very narrow. An early
symptom is shortness of breath when you are active. This shortness of breath
may seem normal to you.
Later in the disease, symptoms may
- Shortness of breath even when you have not
been very active or when you are resting.
- Feeling very tired or
- Pounding of the heart (palpitations).
Call your doctor if your symptoms get worse or you have
How is mitral valve stenosis diagnosed?
valve stenosis may not be diagnosed until you've had the disease for some time.
If you don't have symptoms, the first clue might be a heart murmur your doctor
hears during a routine checkup.