Congenital heart problems are caused right at birth. They may go unnoticed for a lifetime or can be the cause of a fatal end in the shortest of spans.
Congenital heart diseases are a cluster of diseases that are the primary reasons for child deaths during the first year of birth. These defects are not inherited, but are formed when the child is still in the womb. They can be averted if a pregnant woman takes care of herself before, during, and after the pregnancy. These diseases change the structure of the heart and thus hamper its normal functioning. Although these defects can be treated, one needs to take special care post surgery, as the heart is vulnerable to other kinds of problems too.
Congenital Heart Disease in Children
Congenital heart diseases are found in 9 out of every 1000 births. These defects are identified with a defect in the structure of the heart and the great vessels, right from birth. Deformed structure, causes dysfunctional heart, which many times becomes a cause of child death. It causes obstruction in the blood flow through the heart, which affects its rhythm. It is a common congenital defect, and many times also goes unnoticed throughout one’s life. There are two types of congenital heart diseases, namely, cyanotic, which makes the body blue due to lack of oxygen, and non-cynotic.
|Cyanotic Congenital Heart Diseases
|Signs and Symptoms
|Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF)
|Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF) results in mixing of oxygenated and deoxygenated blood in the left ventricle. This causes the primary symptom of TOF, which is low oxygenation of blood. Loud heart murmur, difficulty in feeding, no weight gain, retarded development and overall growth, are some of the symptoms of this disease. It may also cause clubbing of fingers and toes in some cases.
|When the heart has a missing tricuspid valve, it causes absolute loss of right atrioventricular connection, leading to tricuspid atresia. Progressive cynosis, feeding issues, rapid breathing in initial weeks of birth, heart murmur and thickening of myocardium muscle on the left side, are some of the congenital heart disease symptoms.
|Persistent Truncus Arteriosus
|This is a rare kind of birth defect. This is a result of improper division of truncus arteriosus, which never forms the pulmonary artery and aorta. The heart pulses are distinctly felt in such cases. The child may suffer from a heart failure within weeks.
|Ebstein’s anomaly is caused due to displacement of the tricuspid valve towards the top of the right ventricle of the heart. Shortness of breath, fatigue, swelling of legs, high palpitations and discoloration of the lips towards blue, are some of the symptoms of this congenital disease.
|Non-Cyanotic Congenital Heart Diseases
|Signs and Symptoms
|Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD)
|When the wall, ventricular septal dividing the lower chambers of the heart (ventricles), has a hole, it is called a VSD. Sadly, the signs and symptoms of this congenital defect are hardly noticeable at birth. However, heart murmur is a sign of this disease.
|Atrial Septal Defect
|This congenital heart disease in children is caused when the wall that divides the upper chambers does not completely close up. Difficulty in breathing, respiratory infections, palpitations, and shortness of breath, are some of the commonly seen symptoms.
|Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA)
|This congenital birth defect is caused when the ductus arteriosus blood vessel does not close soon after birth. Pounding pulse, speedy breathing, shortness of breath, fatigue and retarded growth, are some of the signs and symptoms of this disease.
|Pulmonary Valve Stenosis
|This is a condition caused due to blood flow from the heart getting blocked at the pulmonic valve. Chest pain, fainting, fatigue, no weight gain, and shortness of breath, are some of the symptoms of this disease. Pulmonary valve stenosis can prove to be fatal too.
Congenital heart diseases amongst infants can be prevented if the to-be mother takes care of herself before and during the pregnancy. Before getting pregnant, every woman must take care of her health and build up her immune system. Avoiding infections of any kind during pregnancy is very important. Stay away from alcohol, drugs that treat acne, and other strong chemicals, during your pregnancy. It is very important that you get in touch with your gynecologist before you get pregnant. If you have a history of congenital defects, get in touch with a genetic consultant, who can help you understand the likelihood of having a baby with congenital defects, better.