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What is Mitral Valve Insufficiency?

Meshell Powell
Meshell Powell

Mitral valve insufficiency, also known as mitral valve regurgitation, is a medical condition in which the mitral valve of the heart is not able to close properly. This causes some of the blood to flow backward, preventing proper blood flow to the body. Mitral valve insufficiency may be caused by a variety of factors, including untreated high blood pressure, congenital heart defects, or normal wear and tear as a result of the aging process. Some potential symptoms of mitral valve insufficiency include the development of a heart murmur, fatigue, and shortness of breath. Treatment depends on the severity of the condition and may include medical observation, dietary modifications, or surgical intervention.

Fatigue and shortness of breath, especially upon physical exertion, are often the first noticeable signs of mitral valve insufficiency. Some people may notice increased coughing, especially when lying down. Heart palpitations or a rapid heartbeat are often present as well. Increased urination and swelling in the feet and legs are commonly reported symptoms of mitral valve insufficiency. Any of these symptoms should be reported to a doctor, especially if there is any combination of these symptoms present.

The mitral valve is located inside the heart between the atria and the ventricles.
The mitral valve is located inside the heart between the atria and the ventricles.

Mitral valve insufficiency tends to be a slowly progressing condition in most patients. Symptoms may develop slowly and worsen over a period of months or years. In the beginning stages, a doctor will often choose to carefully monitor the patient for signs that the condition is beginning to worsen. As long as there are no seriously troubling symptoms and there is no immediate threat to the overall health of the patient, medical intervention is generally not necessary.

Once symptoms begin to develop, prescription medications may be used to help treat individual symptoms, although these medications are not able to reduce the damage to the valve itself. Blood pressure medications may be prescribed to help keep the blood pressure at normal levels, thereby reducing the risks of further heart damage. Diuretics, commonly referred to as fluid pills, may help to reduce the amounts of sodium and accumulated fluids in the tissues of the body. Many doctors will also recommend a low-sodium diet in order to preserve as much heart health as possible.

In severe cases of mitral valve insufficiency, surgical intervention may be deemed the best form of treatment. In some cases, the mitral valve can be repaired. In other cases, the valve must be replaced with a synthetic valve. Consistent medical monitoring is important following either of these procedures to evaluate for any potential complications.

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    • The mitral valve is located inside the heart between the atria and the ventricles.
      By: Matthew Cole
      The mitral valve is located inside the heart between the atria and the ventricles.