If you’ve had rheumatic fever, you may be at risk.
Mitral stenosis, or mitral valve stenosis (MVS), is a condition that occurs when the mitral valve opening in your heart is narrowed, usually due to rigidity or scarring. The abnormal valve doesn’t open properly, reducing blood flow into the left ventricle of the heart and out to the rest of the body. As pressure builds, the upper heart chamber swells as blood and fluid collect in the lung tissue, making it hard to breathe, and leaving you tired and short of breath. Left untreated, it can lead to serious heart complications, including pulmonary hypertension, heart failure, heart enlargement, blood clots or atrial fibrillation.
Depending on the severity of the narrowing, surgery may be necessary to repair or replace the valve.
Mitral stenosis is usually caused by rheumatic fever, a childhood illness related to untreated strep infections or scarlet fever. The condition has become less common since rheumatic fever is rare in the United States. While symptoms are often mild or nonexistent, they may worsen with exertion and typically appear in people 30 to 50 years old. Treatment ranges from physician monitoring to medication to surgical valve repair or replacement. Patients with MVS should pay particular attention to dental care, maintain a healthy diet and weight, reduce alcohol use and incorporate exercise.
Symptoms may include:
• Shortness of breath, especially with exertion or when lying down
• Fatigue, especially during increased physical activity
• Swelling of feet or legs
• Heart palpitations (sensations of a rapid, fluttering heartbeat)
• Dizziness/lightheadedness or fainting
• Heavy coughing
• Chest discomfort or chest pain
• Signs of stroke