The left ventricle of the heart is considered the main pumping chamber, and the blood that comes into this chamber gets there by passing through a part of the organ that is called the mitral valve. Sometimes, this valve becomes narrowed (which is also referred to as ‘stenotic’). This condition is referred to as mitral valve stenosis, and it is often caused by rheumatic fever or strep related infections.
In addition to the narrowing of the mitral valve, heart valve leakage can occur with mitral stenosis. What this means is that in addition to the mitral valve narrowing; it may also not open and close properly, resulting in a leaking heart valve. The heart’s chambers are connected by these valves that open and close with each beat of the heart. In between beats, the flaps on the valves are intended to close tight to prevent heart valve leakage, a phenomenon that may occur with mitral stenosis.
For many people, mitral stenosis symptoms are nonexistent and they feel absolutely fine. In fact, the condition may persist for years or even decades without any symptoms ever presenting themselves. In some cases, very minimal and mild signs or symptoms may present, but they are often not serious enough to lead to medical care or intervention. The unfortunate problem with the condition however, is that mitral stenosis symptoms can suddenly become worse.
Early symptoms can be easily dismissed as other types of ailments and maladies. One of the most common signs of the condition is tiredness and fatigue. This may or may not be more present during times of increased physical activity. Additionally, swelling in the feet and ankles, which certainly can be indicative of a very wide range of health concerns, may also present from time to time. And, a sensation of short or shallow breathing (especially when lying down or during periods of physical activity) and a fluttery heartbeat are also considered mitral stenosis symptoms, particularly early on.
Symptoms can take a rapid turn for the worse however with the development of more alarming symptoms occurring, even years after the development of the condition. For instance, pain in the chest or discomfort in the upper portions of the abdomen may occur, although rarely. And, coughing may also persist from time to time or chronically in some cases. Additionally, there are some long term mitral stenosis symptoms to consider as well, such as a regular or repeated recurrence of infections of the respiratory system.
One of the most serious symptoms of the condition however is hemoptysis. This term refers to coughing up blood or spitting up blood, and it can be caused by a very wide range of diseases, conditions and lifestyle factors. However, hemoptysis also can occur in cases of mitral stenosis, where sputum can become tinged or streaked with blood as it is coughed up. Thankfully, not only is mitral stenosis one of the more rare spitting up blood causes, this symptom is often more than adequate to send the concerned straight to the doctor or emergency room for prompt evaluation and medical care.
Finding mitral valve stenosis once symptoms have led to consulting a health care provider, is most often easily done by observing the mitral stenosis murmur, a tell tale audible signal that doctors can use to identify the irregularities in the heartbeat caused by the condition. Additionally, the mitral stenosis murmur is also incredibly useful at detecting and diagnosing the condition accidentally in people where mitral stenosis symptoms have not presented yet. In addition to identifying this murmur, chest x-rays, echocardiograms and electrocardiograms may all be used to assist in diagnosis.
Because it can take almost half a lifetime for the symptoms of mitral stenosis to become bad enough to seek out medical care, treatment is almost never indicated until the condition has progressed to a more severe state where symptoms are present and problematic. Prior to this point, it is not uncommon for monitoring to be the only course of care or treatment. However, as symptoms progress or the risk of damage or complications like congestive heart failure or stroke become too great, interventions and treatments may be necessary. Mitral valve repair may be performed to help the condition, however in serious cases where the non invasive balloon method is impractical, open heart surgery for full valve replacement may be required.
This condition is not very common and many people who do have it were never aware that they had rheumatic fever or another condition that caused it in the first place. Symptoms can be so mild that they go unnoticed if present at all, and unless they take a sudden turn for the worse, many people are just fine with monitoring and observing the condition. However, paying attention to the signs of an increase in the severity of mitral stenosis symptoms can help prevent longer term complications in the event that the condition takes that quick and dangerous turn.