What is a leaky Mitral Valve?
Mitral valve leaking is one of the severe cardiac (heart) conditions that affect a large number of people worldwide. This condition results when the mitral valve malfunctions and allows the blood to flow backwards into the previous valve. This condition is also known as ‘mitral valve regurgitation’.
What are the signs and symptoms felt in a leaky Mitral Valve?
In many cases where a person is suffering from a malfunctioning and leaky mitral valve they may not experience any sort of symptoms, yet these need to be diagnosed and treated promptly to prevent serious complications from arising.
These are the commonly felt signs and symptoms in case of a leaky mitral valve:
- Heart murmur (blood blowing excessively fast in the heart)
- Dyspnea (shortness of breath)
- Heart palpitations
- Swollen ankles and feet
This condition starts in a mild manner and gradually progresses and the symptoms worsen with time. Although most people might not experience any symptoms for a long time with this condition it is mostly discovered in such cases during a routine medical exam in the form of a heart murmur or during testing for another similar condition.
What causes a leaky Mitral Valve?
The mitral valve consist of two flaps (leaflets) instead of the three flaps in the other heart valves and is responsible for closing down completely when the heart pumps the blood from it into the body and open to take in oxygenated blood from the left atrium.
When this condition develops it causes the mitral valve leaflets to become rigid and these do not close sufficiently. This causes the blood to flow backwards into the left atrium instead of moving out into the body through the aorta.
This condition is classified as being either primary or secondary in nature and is mostly caused due to an abnormality in the mitral valve itself in the primary type or caused due to an abnormality in the left ventricle in the secondary type.
These are the possible causes of a leaky mitral valve:
- Tissue Cord damage – With the passage of time the tissue cords that keep the mitral valve leaflets in place tend to get stretched or torn. A torn mitral valve leaflet can cause considerable amount of blood to flow back into the left ventricle. Surgery is ideally required to treat this condition. This is also seen after a severe injury to the chest.
- Mitral Valve Prolapse – This causes the mitral valve leaflets and the cords supporting it to get weak and become stretched. This results in the valve leaflets to get sucked into the left atrium slightly and leave a gap for the blood to flow back into it during every heart beat.
- Rheumatic Fever – This medical disorder results as a complication from an untreated severe throat infection and can lead to damage to the mitral valve. This leads to eventual loss of strength in the leaflets and causes the blood to flow backwards with every heart beat.
- Endocarditis – This is an infection which affects the inner lining of the heart and can also spread to the heart valves.
- Heart attack – Heart attacks can result in damage to the muscles of the heart which also support the mitral valve. This leads to the heart being unable to function normally. If the heart muscles are damaged extensively it can also lead to severe and sudden mitral valve regurgitation.
- Cardiomyopathy – With the passage of time certain medical conditions (high blood pressure, etc) can result in the heart having to work harder than normal, which leads to the left ventricle eventually becoming enlarged. The stretching of the tissue from around the mitral valve can also lead to leakage in it.
- Injury – A severe injury (trauma) such as that suffered in a motor accident can also lead to damage to the mitral valve and possible mitral valve regurgitation.
- Congenital (birth) heart defects – Certain cases have babies who are born with a defect in the heart which can also include a damaged mitral valve.
What are the risk factors causing a leaky Mitral Valve?
These are the various factors which are known to increase the risk of a leaky mitral valve:
- Family history – In most cases of a leaky mitral valve the person tends to have the condition running in the family.
- Heart attack – This can lead to extensive damage to the muscles and tissues of the heart and can also affect the function of the mitral valve.
- Heart disease – Certain heart conditions can also cause the mitral valve to malfunction, especially coronary artery disease.
- Medication – Certain medicinal drugs (such as migraine pills and appetite suppressants) are known to cause complications with the functions of the mitral valve.
- Congenital heart disorders – Certain people are born with heart conditions that develop into a leaky mitral valve.
- Age – Natural wear and tear of the mitral valve leaflets with advancing age can also lead to a leaky mitral valve.
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