Causes of mitral valve disease
Mitral valve disease can either be present at birth or develop later in life.
Congenital mitral valve disease
In this type, people are born with a mitral valve that is narrowed. Or, they may have other birth defects that can lead to mitral stenosis. Medical experts do not know the exact cause of congenital mitral valve disease.
Acquired mitral valve disease
The acquired type develops later in life because of infection or other factors that damage the mitral valve, including:
- Rheumatic fever: Strep throat, if left untreated, can lead to rheumatic fever. As the body fights off the infection, inflammation can damage the mitral valve. Mitral valve disease that develops as a result of this infection can take years to appear.
- Calcification: Calcium can build up on the leaflets, causing the valve to stiffen and thicken.
- Heart conditions: Endocarditis (infection inside the heart), heart attack or other heart diseases cause damage or scarring that can lead to mitral stenosis or regurgitation.
If you develop strep throat, see your physician for proper care, including a full course of antibiotics, to prevent rheumatic fever. Your physician may recommend an echocardiogram (heart ultrasound) every 1 to 2 years if you have had rheumatic fever to check for heart problems.
Symptoms of mitral valve disease
Mitral valve disease progresses slowly. You may have mild or no symptoms in the early stages. As the mitral valve deteriorates over time, you may experience symptoms that often worsen during
physical activity or when lying down, including:
- Chest pain (rare)
- Difficulty breathing during or after exercise (most common)
- Fainting (syncope) and dizziness
- Fatigue and tiring quickly
- Heart murmur
- Heart palpitations (sensation of racing, fluttering or pounding heartbeat)
- Heavy coughing, sometimes with bloody phlegm
- Irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia)
- Shortness of breath, especially during exertion or while lying down
- Swollen ankles or feet
Diagnosing mitral valve disease
At Henry Ford, our structural heart specialists work quickly to understand your symptoms so we can get you the help you need. We begin our diagnostic process with a thorough evaluation, whether or not you already have a diagnosis.
During your first visit, we meet with you to:
- Perform a complete physical exam
- Review your medical history
- Discuss your symptoms and lifestyle
- Review any previous tests or imaging studies
Depending on your symptoms, overall health and previous test results, we may recommend further testing for additional information to help us plan your treatment. Read about the advanced technology we use for diagnosis of mitral valve diseases.