Mitral valve regurgitation is the most common heart valve defect in the world, affecting millions of people. Plus, it becomes more common with age, which means that even if you don’t have it now, you could eventually develop it.
As a top-ranked cardiology practice in Glendale, Goodyear, Anthem, and Canyon City, Arizona, Phoenix Heart, PLLC, is a leading and trusted provider of mitral valve treatments, including the state-of-the-art MitraClip® therapy aimed at improving heart health and overall wellness, too. Here’s how mitral valve regurgitation happens and six symptoms you should watch out for.
Mitral valve regurgitation: The basics
Your heart has four chambers: the left and right atrium and the left and right ventricle. Valves control the flow of blood from one chamber to another.
The mitral valve is the tiny “door” between the left atrium and left ventricle. When it’s healthy, the valve opens and closes rapidly, over and over and in concert with other valves, keeping blood flowing one way through the heart.
But sometimes, the valve is damaged or malfunctions for other reasons, allowing blood to “leak” backward or regurgitate. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it is — and without treatment, it can cause some serious and even life-threatening complications.
6 symptoms to watch out for
Mitral valve regurgitation can be treated, and early diagnosis is the key to preventing serious complications. Recognizing the symptoms of mitral valve regurgitation can help you get medical treatment promptly. Here’s what to look for.
Mitral valve regurgitation interferes with the way your heart pumps, and that means your heart probably won’t be pumping the amount of blood your organs and tissues need for normal function. As a result, you can wind up feeling constantly tired or worn out — not just after strenuous activity, but nearly all the time.
2. Chronic coughing
Poor circulation also means your blood can’t transport fluids the way it normally does. Over time, fluid can build up in your lungs, leading to irritation and a persistent, chronic cough. Untreated valve problems can lead to chest congestion, which can also cause coughing.
3. Shortness of breath
Also called dyspnea, shortness of breath is another common symptom of mitral valve problems. When your heart doesn’t pump blood efficiently, blood oxygen content drops, leaving you feeling short of breath or gasping for breath. Lung congestion, another effect of mitral valve disease, can also lead to dyspnea.
Your blood carries oxygen to all your organs, including your brain. If your circulation is impeded by a valve problem, you can wind up feeling dizzy or lightheaded. You might even have an increased risk of falling or fainting.
5. Swelling in your feet or ankles
Poor circulation from any cause, including mitral valve regurgitation, often shows up first in your feet. That’s because your feet are farthest away from your heart, and it takes a lot more effort to return blood to your lungs and heart. When your heart is performing poorly, blood and other fluids build up, causing swelling in your ankles and feet.
6. Palpitations or unusual heartbeat
Not surprisingly, mitral valve regurgitation can interfere with how your heart beats. Doctors often can hear an unusual heart sound called a heart murmur when they listen to your heart through a stethoscope. But you may also feel an unusual heartbeat, like a heartbeat that feels rapid or irregular. You may also have palpitations or “fluttering.”
Don’t ignore your symptoms
If you’re having any unusual heart-related symptom — even a subtle one — don’t ignore it. Early evaluation is critical for preventing serious complications, including life-threatening heart failure or arrhythmias. To learn more about mitral valve regurgitation or to schedule a cardiac evaluation, book an appointment online or over the phone with the team at Phoenix Heart today.