Mitral valve stenosis : Symptoms and Causes


Mitral valve stenosis sometimes called mitral stenosis is a narrowing of the heart's mitral valve. This abnormal valve doesn't open properly, blocking blood flow into the main pumping chamber of your heart (left ventricle). Mitral valve stenosis can make you tired and short of breath, among other problems. The main cause of mitral valve stenosis is an infection called rheumatic fever, which is related to strep infections. Rheumatic fever now rare in the United States, but still common in developing countries can scar the mitral valve. Left untreated, mitral valve stenosis can lead to serious heart complications. In mitral valve stenosis, pressure that builds up in the heart is then sent back to the lungs, resulting in fluid build-up (congestion) and shortness of breath. The condition usually progresses slowly over time. You may feel fine with mitral valve stenosis, or you may have mild symptoms for decades. Symptoms of mitral valve stenosis typically appear between the ages of 15 and 40, but they can occur at any age even during childhood.

Signs and symptoms of mitral valve stenosis include:

  • Shortness of breath, especially with activity or when you lie down
  • Fatigue, especially during increased activity
  • Swollen feet or legs
  • Sensations of a rapid, fluttering heartbeat (palpitations)
  • Chest discomfort or chest pain
  • Coughing up blood
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Heart murmur
  • Fluid build-up in the lungs
  • Irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmias)

Mitral valve stenosis symptoms may appear or worsen anytime your heart rate increases, such as during exercise. Or they may be triggered by pregnancy or other things that cause stress on the body, such as an infection.

Causes of mitral valve stenosis include:

  • Rheumatic fever: A complication of strep throat, rheumatic fever can damage the mitral valve. Rheumatic fever is the most common cause of mitral valve stenosis. It can damage the mitral valve by causing the flaps to thicken or fuse. Signs and symptoms of mitral valve stenosis might not show up for years.
  • Calcium deposits: As you age, calcium deposits can build up around the mitral valve (annulus), which can occasionally cause mitral valve stenosis.
  • Radiation therapy: Treatment for certain types of cancer that requires radiation to your chest area can sometimes cause the mitral valve to thicken and harden.
  • Other causes: In rare cases, babies are born with a narrowed mitral valve (congenital defect) that causes problems over time. Some autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, also may rarely cause mitral valve stenosis.

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