What is mitral valve prolapse syndrome?
When mitral valve prolapse (MVP) accompanies symptoms, particularly classic symptoms of dysautonomia, the condition is (or used to be) called mitral valve prolapse syndrome (MVPS).
It is estimated that about 40% of patients with a prolapsing mitral valve experience these symptoms, which stems from an imbalance of the autonomic nervous system. How MVP and dysautonomia are linked, however, is not well understood.
Many experts believe that the presence of both conditions is coincidental and that pressures by desperate dysautonomic patients for a diagnosis on wide scale have lead doctors to perform scores of tests and naturally discover more incidences of mitral valve prolapse. Regardless of how the two are linked, most professionals now describe MVP and dysautonomia as separate conditions.
What is dysautononomia?
Dysautonomia is a medical term used to describe dysfunction, imbalance, or disease of the autonomic nervous system. It is commonly referred to as autonomic dysfunction.
The autonomic nervous system consists of the sympathetic system and the parasympathetic system, which control a number of vital functions within the human body. That includes blood pressure, heart rate, and perspiration, as well as digestion and vision. When the autonomic nervous system is imbalanced for some reason, symptoms can and usually do occur.
The symptoms of autonomic dysfunction can be erratic and severe, having a major impact on a person’s quality of life. In severe cases, patients may be left disabled and unable to function normally. This could explain the pressing need by patients in the past for a diagnosis.
What are the symptoms of dysautonomia?
Dysautonomia has many symptoms. The most common dysautonomia symptoms are heart palpitations (irregular/skipped/rapid heartbeats), fatigue, and abnormal chest pains, headaches, breathing difficulties (especially with exertion), anxiety, panic attacks, and depression.
Less common symptoms of the disorder include nausea, difficulty sleeping or concentrating, and memory problems, along with intestinal problems like diarrhea, constipation, or delayed emptying. Acid reflux, urination difficulties, and shakiness are other known symptoms of dysautonomia.
Patients may also experience muscle twitches, muscle weakness, dizziness, fainting, pains in the neck, back, and extremities, numbness, swelling of the hands and feet, visual disturbances, skin rashes, hay fever, perspiring too much or too little, excessive thirst, salt cravings, pupil dilation, and flushes.
What causes dysautonomia?
It’s not clear what causes autonomic dysfunction, but numerous diseases/conditions have been linked to it. Possible causes of dysautonomia include diabetes, lyme disease, and parkinson’s, multiple system atrophy, ehlers-danlos syndrome, cerebral salt-wasting syndrome, and guillain-barré syndrome.
Other possible causes include connective tissue disorders, mitochondrial diseases, and neurological diseases, autoimmune disorders, botulism, spinal cord and brain injuries, and physical trauma. There also seems to be a genetic link; dysautonomia may be passed through genes.
With regards to mitral valve prolapse syndrome specifically, there appears to be an increased incidence of scoliosis, thyroid problems, and fibrocystic breast disorder, as well as fibromyalgia, pectus excavatum, endometriosis, premenstrual syndrome, and temporomandibular joint dysfunction.
What do MVPS patients have in common?
As with mitral valve prolapse, people who are said to have the mitral valve prolapse “syndrome” seem to share a number of physical similarities.
Patients tend to have a low body mass index, longer than average arms and fingers (known as asthenic body habitus – possibly due to marfan syndrome), joints that stretch beyond the norm (joint hypermobility), hollow chests (pectus excavatum), and spines that feature abnormal curves or deformities, such as scoliosis or kyphosis.
There is also a standard MVPS personality type, according to some experts. Patients tend to be nervous, anxious, and compulsive individuals who talk fast, sleep too little, avoid taking medications, and visit hospital emergency rooms more often than they need to.
How is mitral valve prolapse syndrome diagnosed?
Diagnosing MVPS involves evaluating your symptoms and family medical history, listening for a heart murmur through auscultation, and performing one or more diagnostic tests.
An echocardiogram can often confirm an MVP diagnosis, but other tests may be necessary, such as an electrocardiogram, a CT scan, or an MRI, or cardiac catheterization and holter monitoring. To identify the autonomic nervous system dysfunction, breathing, gastrointestinal, sweat, and bladder tests may be performed, as well as the quantitative sudomotor axon reflex test.
Based on the findings and the physician, one may receive a diagnosis of mitral valve prolapse or mitral valve prolapse with dysautonomia. Then, a treatment plan might be prescribed.
How is mitral valve prolapse syndrome treated?
Doctors recommend avoiding stimulants and following a diet that incorporates enough variety, water, and salt. Treatment also involves exercising regularly, practicing good hygiene, and taking certain medications if appropriate – beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, vasodilators, antibiotic prophylaxis, etc. Depending on the progression of the structural valve problem, surgery may be required. Anxiolytics, antidepressants, and other drugs may also be prescribed.
Additionally, regulating magnesium levels may form part of the mitral valve prolapse syndrome treatment plan, and supplements like arginine, creatine, and coq 10, as well as l-carnitine, hawthorn, taurine, opcs, lipoic acid, gamma-linolenic acid, vitamin B 1, and vitamin E, may be helpful.
Natural treatments for the anxiety associated with MVPS and dysautonomia may include 5-htp, acupuncture, and hops, kava, lemon balm, melatonin, passionflower, and valerian.