One in ten Americans suffers from mitral valve prolapse and the vast majority have no symptoms and will never know that they have it. Valves are located in your heart to keep blood from backing up. With aging, some of these valves can stretch and fail to close completely, so they allow a small amount of blood to leak backwards. This is usually harmless, but can be associated with an irregular heart beat or chest pain caused by a stretching of the muscles that hold the valves in place. Patients with mitral valve prolapse usually do not seek out medical help unless a doctor hears a murmur or click in the heart (85 percent), the patient suffers from chest pain (31 percent) or palpitations (40 percent), suddenly passes out (40 percent), feels excessively tired (22 percent) or is short of breath (10.5 percent). Mitral valve prolapse is hereditary for one patient in five.
When germs get into the bloodstream, they can stick to the rough edges of prolapsed mitral valves and cause an infection, so doctors recommend that people who have this condition take antibiotics whenever germs can enter their bloodstreams, such as during dental or other surgical procedures or when they have a cold. The vast majority of people with mitral valve prolapse do not need any treatment, but those who are bothered by irregular heart beats or chest pain are often given beta blockers, such as propranolol to control symptoms.
1) W Rokicki, J Krzystolikladzinska, B Goc. Mitral valve prolapse syndrome in children. Acta Cardiologica 50: 2 (1995):147-153.
2) Zuppirolo et al. American J. of Cardiology 1995(May);75:1028.