Most cases of mitral valve leakage are benign, but the condition can lead to heart failure if it is not treated, as reported by NYDailyNews.com. Some cases require heart surgery.
Mitral valve leakage effects only about 2 to 3 percent of adult Americans, reports NYDailyNews.com. Unlike most heart conditions, it is unrelated to smoking or diet, and some people are even born with the condition. Usually, the mitral valve keeps blood from going back into the lungs when the heart is pumping blood into the rest of the body. When the valve isn't functioning properly, blood leaks back into the lungs.
If the leak is minor, it is unlikely to be life-threatening, states NYDailyNews.com. However, the leak should be monitored because it can get worse. The left side of the heart can enlarge to compensate for a substantial leak, which increases pressure in the heart and lungs. This can lead to heart failure and a shorter life expectancy.
In most cases, mitral valve leakage is diagnosed when the patient is experiencing shortness of breath and fatigue and the doctor notices a heart murmur or orders an echocardiogram, states NYDailyNews.com. One of the first signs of the condition is an irregular heartbeat.