Mitral Valve Regurgitation: What Are the Symptoms?

Medically Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on August 18, 2022
3 min read

Mitral valve regurgitation happens when one of the valves on the left side of your heart doesn’t close properly. It allows some blood to flow backward instead of out to the rest of your body. You may feel it in a variety of ways.

Some people with this condition may not feel any symptoms while others may have chest pain, shortness of breath, an irregular heartbeat, or dizziness, among other things.

Some cases are mild and just need to be watched. Others are more severe and may require medications or surgery. You need to make sure your doctor knows your symptoms so they can decide what to do.

The mitral valve controls the flow of blood through the left side of your heart, where oxygen-rich blood comes in from the lungs and gets pumped out to the rest of your body.

It’s supposed to be a one-way passage. But if the valve doesn’t close properly, blood can flow backward into the left atrium, one of the heart’s four chambers. That’s mitral valve regurgitation.

These can vary from person to person, but you may find yourself feeling some of the following:

Fatigue and shortness of breath: The blood coming through the left side of your heart fuels your body, bringing oxygen from your lungs to your cells. If some of that blood is flowing back into the heart instead, you might end up feeling tired or lightheaded, particularly if you’ve been active.

In severe cases, you can find yourself feeling tired or short of breath even when you’re at rest.

Heart palpitations: These occur when your heart skips a beat. The feeling in your chest might range from fluttering to pounding. This may be more likely to happen when you’re lying on your left side.

Swelling of feet and legs: This is caused by a buildup of fluid in your body, known as edema. It’s a sign that your heart may be struggling to pump enough blood to the rest of your body.

Some other things you or your doctor may notice:

A doctor may first suspect you have this condition during a normal physical while listening to your heart with a stethoscope.

If they don’t hear the telltale signs but you’re having many of the symptoms, they may order some other tests.

A common follow-up test is called an echocardiogram. It uses sound waves to make an image of your beating heart. Your doctor might also want to get a transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE), a computed tomography (CT or CAT) scan, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of your chest to help figure out what’s going on. These are tests which give the doctor a picture of your insides.