Mitral valve stenosis, also known as mitral stenosis, occurs when the opening of the mitral valve, one of the heart’s four valves, becomes narrowed or doesn’t open as wide as it should, obstructing blood flow from the left atrium (LA) to the left ventricle (LV). As a result, blood volume and pressure increase in the left atrium causing it to become enlarged and beat rapidly and irregularly. This is called atrial fibrillation, or AFib.
Mitral valve stenosis also causes the pressure to raise in the lungs, resulting in shortness of breath and exercise intolerance.
The most common cause of mitral stenosis is rheumatic fever that, in some cases, patients never knew they had – possibly the result of an untreated strep infection. And though rare, it is also possible for some infants to be born with the condition.
Patients with mitral stenosis may not experience any symptoms at all. As the disorder progresses and in more severe cases symptoms become more pronounced.
Symptoms of mitral stenosis may include:
- Shortness of breath both with activity as well as moments of rest
- Heart palpitations
Severe cases of mitral valve stenosis can put patients at a higher risk of blood clots, stroke and heart failure. In women with severe cases of mitral stenosis and who become pregnant, heart failure can develop more quickly.
The most common ways to diagnose mitral valve stenosis is with a physical examination and an echocardiogram. Treatment will depend on the severity of the condition.