Heart murmurs are either a congenital or acquired disease. A doctor diagnoses heart murmurs using a stethoscope to listen to the sounds of the heart. When blood flows rapidly or abnormally through the heart valve, it will make whooshing or swishing sounds which called heart murmur.
If the doctor does hear a murmur, they will order some test to help determine whether the murmur is a sign of heart valve problem. It can be harmless (innocent) but sometimes it can be a sign of serious heart condition. A doctor will choose the best treatment procedure based on the cause of heart murmurs.
Unlike harmless or innocent heart murmurs, worrisome heart murmurs mostly cause symptoms which differ from person to person, depending on the cause.
The followings are certain symptoms of heart murmurs:
- Blue fingernails or lips
- Chest tightness
- Chronic cough
- Heart palpitations
- Difficulty breathing
- Liver swelling
- Bulging veins in the neck
- Heavy sweating
- Decreased appetite in infants
- Growth problems in infants
Although heart murmurs in general do not require immediate medical care, one is advised to schedule an appointment with a doctor if the disease keeps making you concerned. You may need to do some tests to rule out a health problem.
A rapid turbulent blood flow through the heart can cause heart murmurs in any of the following events:
- Diastolic murmur: When the heart is pumping blood to the body.
- Systolic murmur: When the heart muscle relaxes and the heart is filling up with blood.
- Continuous murmur: Heart murmur happens throughout the heartbeat.
Harmless (innocent) heart murmurs
This is mostly found in kids and newborn babies. However, anyone with a healthy heart might have harmless heart murmurs too. Although those with harmless heart murmurs might recover on themselves over time, in some patients the disease might be present throughout their life without severe symptoms.
These following factors can cause harmless heart murmurs:
- Anemia, which is caused by a low amount of normal red blood cells responsible for delivering oxygen to body tissues
- Rapid growth (in adolescence)
- Physical activities
Worrisome heart murmurs
Certain congenital heart defects that affect the structure of the heart can cause worrisome heart murmurs among kids.
These congenital defects include:
- Holes in the heart. A baby in the womb can have a hole between the upper and/or lower heart chambers. The conditions such as atrial septal defects and ventricular septal defects.
- Cardiac shunts. In kids, worrisome heart murmurs are caused by a congenital defect related to the structure of the heart that causes irregular blood flow between the heart chambers or blood vessels. But, for those who develop this problem later on (acquired heart valve disease), it is due to irregular heart valves.
Things that can damage the heart valves include:
- Calcium deposits. A heart valve with a buildup of calcium causes the valve to be unable to completely close, making the blood back up and changing the direction of blood flow, leading to heart murmurs. This condition is also called calcific or degenerative valve disease. Valve stenosis, or the stiffening or narrowing of a heart valve, can affect any valve, such as the mitral valve or the aortic valve.
- Endocarditis: This is when the inner heart lining and valves get infected with certain bacteria or germs and due to this untreated infections of a valve can cause heart murmurs.
- Rheumatic fever: One with strep throat can develop this kind of fever as a severe complication if leaving the disease untreated. Heart valves can be affected by rheumatic fever, which is a condition called rheumatic heart disease that can lead to heart murmurs.
Newborn have a risk of developing heart murmurs if they have any of the following:
- Family history: related to heart problems.
- Mother with uncontrolled diabetes during pregnancy
- Infections during pregnancy: Pregnant women that were infected with German measles, or rubella.
- Alcohol/drug consumption: Pregnant women who abuse alcohol and drugs.
Those with any of the following health disorders are put at a higher risk of developing heart murmurs:
- Carcinoid syndrome: A rare malignant tumor that causes chemical leakage in the bloodstream.
- Cardiomyopathy: Weakens the heart muscles.
- Endocarditis: Infection of cardiac tissue.
- Anemia: Low red blood cell count
- Hypereosinophilic syndrome
- Autoimmune diseases: Lupus, rheumatoid arthritis
- Diseases that affect valves of the heart
- Pulmonary hypertension
- History of rheumatic fever