What is mitral valve stenosis?
stenosis is a heart problem in which the
mitral valve doesn't open as wide as it should. The valve becomes stiff or scarred, or the valve flaps become partially joined
See a picture of
mitral valve stenosis .
Mitral valve stenosis can lead to
heart failure; a stroke; an infection in the heart (endocarditis);
or a fast, slow, or uneven heartbeat (arrhythmia). Fortunately, mitral valve stenosis can be treated.
Mitral valve stenosis is not common in
developed countries such as the United States, Canada, and western Europe.
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.
With mitral valve stenosis, 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 the
heart and its chambers, valves, and blood flow .
See a picture of a
normal mitral valve .
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 that they had rheumatic fever.
What are the symptoms?
don't develop until 10 to 20 years after stenosis starts, and they may take as long as
40 years to develop.
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.
Symptoms later in the disease 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.
Your doctor will ask you questions
about your past health and do a physical exam. If your doctor thinks you might
have the disease, he or she may do more tests. These may include:
ultrasound test lets your doctor see a picture of your
heart, including the mitral valve.
electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG). This test can check
for problems with your heart rhythm.
- A chest
X-ray. This shows your heart and lungs and can help
your doctor find the cause of symptoms such as shortness of breath.
These tests also help your doctor find what caused the
stenosis and how severe it is.