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What causes mitral valve prolapse (MVP)?

Dr. Vicente E. Font, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

A fairly common condition, mitral valve prolapse (MVP) occurs when one or more leaflets (flaps) of a mitral valve become abnormal, which can sometimes lead to leakage of the valve (mitral regurgitation).

The mitral valve works like a one-way door system that allows blood to go in only one direction. After blood moves through the valve, it is supposed to seal shut and not allow for any back flow of blood into the left atrium of the heart. When the valve becomes diseased, degenerative or becomes too loose, the valve loses the ability to close tightly, allowing for mitral regurgitation.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

The mitral valve separates the left upper chamber of the heart, called the left atrium, from the lower left chamber, called the left ventricle. Mitral valve prolapse occurs when one or both of the tissue flaps or leaflets that make up the valve bulge or prolapse backward into the atrium. Watch this animation to learn more about mitral valve prolapse.

The exact cause of mitral valve prolapse (MVP) isn't known. Most people who have the condition are born with it. MVP tends to run in families and is more common in people who were born with connective tissue disorders, such as Marfan syndrome.

The mitral valve can be abnormal in two ways. First, the valve flaps may be oversized and thickened. Second, the valve flaps may be "floppy." The tissue of the flaps and their supporting "strings" are too stretchy, and parts of the valve flop or bulge back into the atrium.

Some people's valves are abnormal in both ways. Either way can keep the valve from making a tight seal.

This answer from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute has been reviewed and/or edited by Dr. William D. Knopf.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.