Mitral Stenosis, also known as Mitral Valve Stenosis is a condition when the valve opening of the heart narrows down. The root cause of this problem is rheumatic fever and in some patients this problem is present since birth. It affects two of the most important chambers of the heart i.e. left ventricle and left atrium. Mitral valve is present on the left side of the heart and it leads the oxygen rich blood on to the aorta. Any problem in the Mitral valve can lead to shortness of oxygen rich blood leading to breathing problems. Valvuloplasty is the most preferred treatment that helps in treating this disease. It helps in avoiding surgery and the treatment is done through an inflating balloon process.
Causes of Mitral Stenosis
The main cause of Mitral stenosis is rheumatic fever. Generally any kind of fever during childhood affects the immune system of a person and it causes complication in the throat.
- Rheumatic fever: Rheumatic fever causes the flaps of the heart to thicken and this leads to complications in strep throat. Generally, it starts as a normal viral fever and does not show up for many years. It is difficult to predict this at the starting stage and the first signs of rheumatic fever are spotted only after 5 to 10 years since their first episodes.
- Calcium deposits: This is a very rare condition and it builds up as a person starts ageing. If calcium deposits build up in the body then it can lead to a ring shaped formation around the valve. This can lead to Mitral valve stenosis affecting the blood flow.
Congenital diseases can also lead to Mitral stenosis and it is mainly caused in babies that are born with a narrowed heart. Doctors suggest surgery as the best remedy to repair the narrowed heart and improve the blood flow.
It starts as a normal fever and its symptoms seem to be similar to a viral fever. In some of the cases the heart starts beating rapidly or there is a discomfort in the chest. Some of the common symptoms are:
- Respiratory infections
- Discomfort in chest or chest pain
- Swelling in the ankles
- Plum colored cheeks
- Cough with presence of some blood
- Shortness of breath
There are cases where it is really hard to catch the symptoms and they appear only during exercise or stressful conditions. The symptoms tend to appear when body goes through stress or through strenuous conditions. It also affects proper growth in children leading to lower immunity.
Diagnosis of Mitral Stenosis
Proper pathological testing and physical exams can help in diagnosing this disease. Early recognition of streptococcal infections and blood clots helps in treating it efficiently without any delay. Some of the common tests include:
- Transesophageal echocardiogram: There are ultrasound waves threaded into the heart through the esophagus. A device is used to emit the waves on to the heart to get a clear image of the ventricles.
- Echocardiogram: This is the most common diagnostic testing that is used by most of the pathological labs. It helps in getting a clear picture of the functions and structure of the heart.
- Cardiac catheterization: This can be really painful for some patients and it is used for patients suffering from advanced stage of Mitral Stenosis. A thin tube is inserted into the neck, upper thigh and the arm of the patient. This tube is threaded directly towards the heart and doctors conduct various tests that help in clear picture of the blood vessels in the heart.
- Physical exam: The doctors use the stethoscope to listen to the breathing patterns and sounds made by the heart. During Mitral stenosis the heart makes some unusual snapping or rumbling sound that helps the doctors in detecting this disease. The presence of fluid in the lungs and any kind of arrhythmia is an indicator of Mitral valve stenosis.
- Testing heart rhythm: There are some electrical indicators used to check out the abnormalities in the heart.
- Holter monitoring: A portable device is used to record the electrical activity of the heart and this test can last for 24 to 48 hours.
- Electrocardiogram: An ECG is a general test performed to check out the any kind of electrical activity of the heart. This is the most common test that can help in detecting all kinds’ abnormal activities of the heart.
Treating Mitral valve stenosis
The treatment mainly depends on the severity of the problem. If a person is suffering from a mild mitral stenosis then he might not need any treatment at all.
- Valvuloplasty: In cases where the patient just requires medication and there is no excessive damage to the heart, valvulosplasty is considered to be a good option. In this process a tube is threaded along with a balloon attached to it. It passes through a vein and moves on to the heart. Once the tube is in the heart the doctors inflate the balloon and expand the valve. Inflating the balloon helps in treating the narrowness in the valves.
- Surgery: Surgical repair is necessary only when there is no option left. The doctors go through an open surgery to treat the narrowness and improve the blood flow. If the narrowness is not treated then there are times when the doctors completely replace the mitral valve with a new one.
- Medication: Drugs and medicines are not able to completely get rid of the disease but they can surely help in reducing the symptoms. Some of the most common medications used by the doctors are:
If Mitral valve stenosis is not treated then it can lead to some severe complications in the heart. If it moves to an advanced stage then there are high chances of developing atrial fibrillation or Arrhythmia. Heart failure or heart infections lead to irregular heartbeats and the patient develops irregular breathing problems. It is important to go through proper tests and get it treated in time. Sometimes the patients might need to make some changes in their lifestyle and diet. Salt, alcohol and caffeine should be stopped as soon as this disease is diagnosed. The patient should maintain a proper weight and stay fit.