What is myxomatous degeneration?
Myxomatous degeneration is a medical term for the deterioration of connective tissue in certain areas of the body. It usually affects the heart’s valves, particularly the mitral valve.
Typically associated with the mitral valve prolapse condition, which can be described as myxomatous mitral degeneration, it tends to occur naturally as a person ages, sometimes causing symptoms and complications, especially later on in life.
Many times, however, the mitral degeneration is not harmful and does not cause problems, with patients totally unaware that they have the condition.
What causes myxomatous degeneration?
Though the actual mechanism is to date not fully understood, the build-up of a glycosaminoglycan called dermatan sulfate is partly what causes the deterioration.
Dermatan sulfate is a cellular connective tissue compound that aids with fibrosis, coagulation, and wound healing, as well as numerous other important processes in the body. When this collagenous substance accumulates abnormally, though, the mitral valve leaflets and tendinous chordae (heart strings) can thicken, enlarge, and become redundant, affecting how the heart works.
Myxomatous degeneration is the main cause of primary mitral valve regurgitation in both men and women, reportedly accounting for about half of all cases.
What is myxomatous?
Myxomatous is an adjective that is derived from the word myxoma. The term is said to originate from muxa, which is the Greek word for mucus and is now clinically used to describe a pathological connective tissue deterioration process that takes place inside some people’s bodies.
A myxoma is a non-cancerous tumor or growth that contains mucus or a gelatin-like substance. The tumors are usually found in or around the heart, where they can sometimes damage or physically alter vital structures and cause dysfunction. They can also develop in other parts of the body.
What goes wrong in people with myxomatous mitral valve degeneration?
With myxomatous degeneration, the leaflets or chordae of the valve can thicken, enlarge, or elongate. As a result, the leaflets may not meet as neatly and tightly as they should during closure, extending beyond the mitral annulus into the left atrium during the contraction phase of the cardiac cycle (as in mitral valve prolapse) and allowing the regurgitation of blood back into the atrium.
This backflow of blood, especially when significant, can cause serious health problems. Complications of mitral valve regurgitation include atrial fibrillation, congestive heart failure, blood clots, and infective endocarditis, all of which can lead to the death of the patient, even when treated.