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Heart Valve Problems: Mitral Stenosis

Mitral stenosis means the mitral valve stiffens and doesn’t open right. Blood must move through a smaller opening. In severe cases, fluid can build up in the lungs, leading to coughing and breathing problems. Problems with the mitral valve can also cause a fast or irregular heartbeat (palpitations). Over time, mitral stenosis may slowly get worse.

Possible Causes

Most cases of mitral stenosis are caused by rheumatic fever, which can lead to an inflammation that damages the heart valves. Though pregnancy doesn’t cause mitral stenosis, a woman may first develop symptoms of mitral stenosis during pregnancy. This is because the amount of blood her heart has to move has increased.

Image of woman
Mitral stenosis is often first diagnosed in women when they become pregnant.

Image of open valve
Open mitral valve with stenosis (viewed from above).

Cutaway view of heart

Treating Mitral Stenosis

If there are no symptoms, treatment usually isn’t needed. If symptoms occur, your doctor may prescribe medications to help ease them. If the stenosis is severe, surgery can be done to repair or replace the valve.

Online Medical Reviewer: Ailawadi, Gorav, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Garrett, John R, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 4/3/2012
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