When a valve fails to close completely, the valve itself can become “leaky,” allowing blood to backwash down through the valve (called “regurgitation”).
In addition, the valve may not ever completely move the volume of blood to the next appropriate chamber. This condition includes both mitral regurgitation and aortic regurgitation.
If you have mitral regurgitation, you may not experience any symptoms at first. The symptoms of mitral valve disease usually occur earlier, generally when patients are in their 40s and 50s.
But the condition can eventually become more severe and cause:
- chest pain brought on by physical activity – caused by your heart having to work harder
- shortness of breath – at first you may only notice this when you exercise, but later you may experience this even when resting
- dizziness or lightheadedness – caused by the obstruction of blood flow from your heart
- Loss of consciousness (fainting) – also a result of reduced blood flow
- Fatigue - Difficulty walking short distances
- Swollen ankles or feet - caused by poor circulation and often experienced after sleeping or inactivity
- Difficulty sleeping or needing to sleep sitting up
- Decline in activity level or reduced ability to do normal activities
- Feeling older than your age
Mitral valve disease is the most commonly diagnosed form of valve regurgitation. Mitral valve prolapse is estimated to affect as many as 1 in 20 people. In serious cases, the mitral valve can become weakened or stretched, ballooning out and sometimes causing a backflow of blood.
As illustrated after the age of 55, your chances of developing mitral valve disease increase significantly. With an estimated 10% of over 75’s affected by mitral valve disease.
If a patient is not showing any symptoms of mitral valve regurgitation, or their symptoms are mild, the most common form of action is regular check ups. In mild cases, these checks are usually yearly, and will increase as the condition deteriorates.
Patients receiving annual check ups should use the Heart Valve Voice app to monitor their symptoms. This will provide them and their clinician with a journal documenting how their symptoms are progressing.
The most common treatment for mitral regurgitation is surgical valve replacement or repair. Recently, a new innovative treatment has been used which clips the mitral valve. This less invasive treatment is becoming increasingly common. Patients waiting for treatment should discuss all their options with their clinician before deciding on which treatment is best for them.
In 2013 Geoffrey Pritchard, of North London was admitted to Watford General Hospital after experiencing an episode of atrial fibrillation and was diagnosed with pericarditis. Geoffrey received a pericardiectomy, and through the associated testing they found another issue lurking, mitral regurgitation. Click here to read his story
Click here to read his story