Mitral Valve Prolapse (MVP) is a diagnosis that tends to occur in women more often than men – although there are many men with the condition. It is a diagnosis based upon a physical examination by a physician and sometimes by imaging studies such as an echocardiogram (sonogram of the heart).
MVP means that the mitral valve in your heart is prolapsing into the left atrium slightly when it closes as the heart beats. The valve normally closes during a heart beat to prevent blood from going backwards towards the lungs. If the valve is prolapsing, it can occasionally also be “leaky”. Many times the valve functions completely normally, but it makes a slightly different sound than normal and can be detected on exam as mentioned above.
Many people with MVP have frequent episodes of chest pain and palpitations. These episodes are often brought on by stress – which can be physical (hormone changes, fever, dehydration, lack of sleep) or emotional. In the setting of stress, the symptoms occur more frequently and improve as stress resolves. The pain and palpitations are not brought on by exertion or activity.?
The reason for this physical response to stress in unclear, but it is thought to be related to the sympathetic nervous system. This is the system in the body that is responsive to adrenaline. Patients with MVP are more sensitive heart-wise to stress/adrenaline.
The good news:
- MVP and the sensitivity to stress does not increase risk of heart attack.
- Symptoms associated with MVP often respond well to medications, especially beta-blockers, if needed
- Dental prophylaxis is not needed for MVP (although it used to be a recommendation, current evidence suggests it is not necessary and can possibly lead to super-infections)
If you are experiencing symptoms of chest pain and palpitations, especially with stress, talk with your physician. Treatment options are available.