The mitral valve allows blood to flow from the left atrium of the heart to the left ventricle. Mitral valve prolapse occurs when part of the valve slips back into the left atrium when the left ventricle squeezes. This can occur due to an abnormally shaped valve or damage to the valve itself. This condition can be passed down through families or caused by conditions such as connective tissue disease. Mitral valve prolapse can lead to mitral regurgitation, when a little bit of the blood flows back into the atrium with each heartbeat.
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Many people with mitral valve prolapse are asymptomatic, and minor mitral valve prolapse is often not a cause for concern. However, moderate to severe mitral valve prolapse with associated regurgitation can damage the heart muscle and lead to congestive heart failure. Symptoms of mitral valve prolapse can include intermittent and minor chest pain, but this is generally more bothersome than dangerous. In more severe cases, the symptoms of congestive heart failure may occur. The only way to determine if the reason for the symptoms is minor or more serious is to see a physician and have them listen to the heart. Abnormal movement of the mitral valve makes a distinctive click. The physician may also hear the murmur of blood flowing back into the atrium. If a mitral valve issue is detected, the physician may order more tests, such as an echocardiogram, to determine the extent of the prolapse and regurgitation.
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