Causes of leaking heart valve

A leaking mitral heart valve can have various causes, including:

  • Deterioration of the valve tissue
  • A congenital valve defect
  • Heart conditions such as an infarction or other causes of a weakening of the heart muscle

Consequences of leaking heart valve

A leaking mitral valve places an additional load on the heart and lungs. Depending on how serious it is, a lesser or greater quantity of oxygen rich blood – that is actually destined for the organs – flows back to the atrium instead of circulating in the body.

That has various consequences: as compensation for the quantity of blood lacking in the organs, some people develop an enlarged heart; in other words the heart has to work harder to pump blood through the body. However, over time this enlargement weakens the heart. The weakening of the heart leads to a reduction in heart capacity, shortness of breath upon exertion and congestion of the blood in the lung circulation path, which can lead to pulmonary oedema, a life-threatening disorder. Because the blood flows back into the atrium there is also enlargement of the atrium. This can lead to heart arrhythmias (e.g. atrial fibrillation) or even a stroke.

The body is able to compensate for a heart valve that does not close properly for a considerable period of time, without the patient necessarily noticing this. By the time symptoms do arise, the valve disorder is often already at an advanced stage. Severe mitral insufficiency is thus a progressive condition that should be diagnosed and treated in a timely manner to avoid the consequences mentioned above.