Valves exist in the heart in order to allow blood to get from chamber to chamber as part of the body’s circulatory process. Certain conditions can affect the way these valves function which can lead to complications. These maladies are known as heart valve disease, and mitral valve stenosis is one such condition. It is characterized by the narrowing of the mitral valve, that which is responsible for allowing the flow of blood from the left atrium to the left ventricle. In mitral valve stenosis, this decreased blood flow can lead to health concerns including a leaking heart valve and blood backing up into the lungs, leading to congestive heart failure and other serious complications like stroke or an infection in the heart.
When insufficiency occurs within the same valve, blood can actually leak backwards across it, making the heart work harder. This occurs when the valve either does not close tightly enough between pumps. Unfortunately, this leaking heart valve can affect the amount of blood being pumped through the body, and heart valve leakage also makes the heart work much harder to perform its basic function. This phenomenon is known as regurgitation.
Aside from the physiological components of this valve disease however, there is a whole lot more to the story. We have compiled a list of seven shocking facts about mitral valve stenosis to consider that make the leaking heart valve disorder even more interesting including origin, treatment and diagnosis.
1. Most Common Cause
The most common source of mitral valve stenosis is rheumatic fever. It is a disease that itself is most commonly the result of strep throat that has gone untreated. Various types of damage to the heart are some of the more serious outcomes of rheumatic fever, however shockingly enough, many people who have this condition were not ever aware that they had rheumatic fever in the past.
2. Onset of Symptoms
Many health conditions present symptoms at onset, but mitral valve stenosis is not one of them. It can actually take up to twenty years for mitral stenosis symptoms to develop or worsen to the point that the affected may be inclined to seek medical care. In some cases, symptoms may not be evident for 40 years after the onset of the condition.
3. Symptoms Can Be Vague
While later symptoms of the leaking heart valve disorder can be serious and lead most to seek medical care promptly, such as coughing up blood, the shocking fact remains that most early symptoms are easily dismissed and most do not attribute them to a heart condition. The most common symptom of mitral valve stenosis is shortness of breath following exercise, which can be a perfectly and easily explainable normal phenomenon.
In many cases, diagnosing mitral valve stenosis is quite easy, thanks to the mitral stenosis murmur, a literal audible signature that makes pinpointing the condition much simpler. Physically manipulating someone with the suspected leaking heart valve condition (such as turning them to the left) can actually isolate and accentuate the telltale murmur. In addition, electrocardiography, chest x-rays and echocardiography may also be used.
5. Pregnancy Connection
Not only are the effects of the condition exacerbated during pregnancy, it is also considered one of the more abundant valve related disorders during this time. Symptoms may also be more evident during pregnancy which may make diagnosing it easier.
6. Treatment Is NOT Always Necessary
Mitral valve stenosis is considered a condition for life, but it is not always treated, even when found or when the valve has narrowed significantly. If symptoms aren’t present, monitoring and follow ups may be all that is needed, at least until they present. This may be followed with medications if symptoms become evident.
7. Surgeries CAN Cause Problems
In advanced cases of the condition or those where symptoms have progressed dramatically, it may be necessary for a mitral valve repair surgery to be performed. One of the most common types of repair for the mitral valve is a percutaneous balloon mitral valvuloplasty. However, mitral regurgitation is a very real risk of the procedure, where the leaking heart valve can lead to further complications. Mitral regurgitation as a result of valve repair often leads to a full valve replacement.