stethoscope on desk while doctor is researching mitral valve prolapse causes

What Causes Mitral Valve Prolapse?

Mitral valve prolapse is an abnormality of the mitral valve, which controls blood flow between the left atrium (upper chamber) and left ventricle (lower chamber). A prolapse is a sort of bulging that can occur in several parts of the body, including the rectum and uterus, when the integrity of the structure becomes compromised. However, exactly why the mitral valve prolapses is still up in the air. 

In many situations, MVP is a congenital issue, meaning the valve was simply abnormal at birth. This abnormality might mean an exceptionally large opening that the valve is expected to close, or a mitral valve that is too large or stretchier than it should be, so that there isn’t sufficient support in its tissue composition to keep it firm and flat. This is further evidenced by the more frequent appearance of MVP in individuals who also have a connective tissue disorder (such as Marfan’s Syndrome), according to the National Institute of Health. Additionally, genetics seem to have a lot to do with the presence of MVP, as it appears to be more common in individuals with a family history of MVP. 

MVP more often becomes problematic when blood begins to back up past the prolapsed valve. This is called mitral valve regurgitation, and is more often the cause of those symptoms associated with MVP. The backflow of blood puts strain on the heart muscle, eventually causing arrhythmias or palpitations, fluid retention in the lungs leading to coughing, chest pain, migraines, dizziness, and/or anxiety. So, while mitral valve prolapse causes mitral valve regurgitation, the underlying cause of MVP is still unknown. 

Last Updated: October 26, 2016

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