Heart Murmurs – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment
A lot of people consider the heart to be the most important organ in the body. The health of the heart is usually compromised due to several predominant factors. One of the conditions that mostly affect the health of people’s heart is murmurs. This condition affects people of any age which includes children.
What is a heart murmur?
Just as the name implies, a heart murmur is an unusual sound other than the regular “lub-DUB” sound the heart makes. The murmur occurs in different forms. It may be a whooshing, swishing or clicking noise.
If you have a murmur, your cardiologist can hear the sound by simply, listening to your heart with a stethoscope. Whenever you visit your cardiologist and, your cardiologist listens to your heart, they are probably listening for a murmur.
What causes heart murmurs?
Heart murmursusually occur when there is an abnormal flow of blood through the heart. The heart will produce abnormal sounds if a valve in the heart is not working correctly. A heart murmur can be termed innocent or abnormal based on the effect it has on the heart.
Innocent heart murmur
An innocent heart murmur is not dangerous and doesn’t require any medical intervention. It can be caused by anemia, fever, hyperthyroidism, and several other factors.
A heart murmur occurs very often in a lot of persons. About 40 – 45% of children and 10 % of adults have a heart murmur at some point in their lives, but, it goes away on its own. Murmurs do not usually present noticeable symptoms, so they often go away unnoticed. Still’s murmur is a type of innocent murmur that occurs in children between the ages of 3 – 7. This type of murmur calls for no serious concern just like regular innocent murmurs.
Innocent murmurs are more common in pregnant women because during pregnancy, the heart pumps more blood and, the extra blood flows through the heart and can cause murmurs. This type of murmur usually stops after pregnancy.
An innocent murmur can get louder or become softer when a person exercises or gets excited.
Abnormal heart murmurs
These are also called a pathological murmur and, it is usually diagnosed in people who have certain heart conditions. An abnormal murmur may be as a result of certain heart conditions such as a congenital heart defect, a heart valve defect, an infection, or the narrowing of the aorta.
What are the signs of a heart murmur?
When murmurs occur, they present little or no symptoms. If these symptoms are present, they occur as
- Dizziness or fainting
- Weight gain
- Shortness of breath during exertion
- Poor eating and abnormal growth in children especially infants who have a congenital valve disease
- Chest pain
- Excessive sweating that is not related to temperature or exercise
- Swelling in the feet, legs or abdomen
- Bluish colouration of the skin, especially on the lips and fingers
Murmurs are not a serious condition but, if you or someone you care for shows any of these symptoms, you should visit a cardiologist immediately.
How is a heart murmur diagnosed?
During your heart check, your cardiologist would ask you about your recent symptoms and your family history. Your cardiologist would carry out a physical exam on you. It would include using a stethoscope to listen to your heart. Your cardiologist would have to listen if the murmur occurs when your heart is relaxing or contracting, and also check if the murmur last throughout the heartbeat. Your cardiologist would also check if the murmur can be heard on other parts of your chest, back or neck when performing some movements like squatting.
If your cardiologist thinks you need additional tests, you may need to perform the following:
- Chest x-ray
- Heart ultrasound (echocardiogram)
- Electrocardiogram (EKG)
- Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Cardiac catheterization and angiography
How is a heart murmur treated?
Innocent murmurs do not need any form of treatment since they usually get resolved on their own.
If your murmurs are a result of a valve problem or abnormal blood flow within the heart chambers (shunt), you would need to undergo periodic check-ups and diagnostic tests such as echocardiogram.
Treatment for abnormal murmurs depends on the cause of the murmur and its severity. In some cases, immediate surgery may be necessary while some cases would need to be monitored for some time before carrying out any surgical procedure.
With the new advances in health care, some conditions can be corrected with less invasive techniques such as inserting a catheter through the vein. If this method is suitable for you, your cardiologist would have to create a specific plan for you.
For less severe heart conditions like murmurs, you can visit a heart specialist in London to receive adequate care when the need arises.