A heart murmur is an abnormal sound heard during the normal heartbeat cycle through auscultation or with the help of a stethoscope. It is louder than normal heartbeat and can even be for a longer duration than the typical heart sound. The whooshing or swishing sound is heard due to a turbulent blood in or near the heart.
The sound like 'lubb-DUP' indicates a normal heart sound of the heart valve closing. It does not indicate any serious cardiovascular problem. There are two types of heart murmurs, the innocent heart murmurs and abnormal heart murmurs. The innocent heart murmurs are commonly heard and does not need any treatment. It is the abnormal heart murmurs that is not so innocent and needs medical attention.
Causes of Heart Murmur
Innocent Heart Murmur
These types of murmurs are heard when blood moves through a healthy heart noisily.
- Flow of blood through the heart and its blood vessels that is faster than normal.
- The amount of blood flow through the heart is more than normal.
- Changes in the heart due to surgery or aging.
Abnormal Heart Murmur
They are caused due to congenital heart defects. An infant may be born with abnormally developed heart valves or blood vessels of the heart. Other defects include congenital septal defects and congenital valve defects. The causes include infections and conditions that damage heart valves and other heart structures. Other causes include:
Patent ductus-arteriosus: A condition that affects the connection between the vein of the heart and the major artery. This may lead to an abnormal murmur.
Rheumatic Fever: Rheumatic fever is a serious illness that is caused by bacteria that causes strep throat or scarlet fever. There can be permanent damage to the heart due to rheumatic fever.
Endocarditis: Infection and inflammation of the inner lining of the heart and valves due to bacteria or other microbes can cause endocarditis. The infection spreads from other parts of the body through blood to the heart. This infection is mostly seen in people with heart abnormalities. Endocarditis requires immediate treatment as it can lead to damage or destruction of heart valves.
Calcification: The hardening or thickening of heart valves known as mitral or aortic valve stenosis can cause heart murmurs. The functioning capacity of heart valve may decrease that causing difficulty in flow of blood through heart.
Mitral Valve Prolapse: The valve between the left atrium and left ventricle does not close properly. When the left ventricle contracts, the valve's leaflets prolapse upwards or back into the atrium.
Symptoms of Heart Murmur
Many heart murmurs are just innocent murmurs. However, some murmurs are indicative of underlying heart problem as these symptoms include:
- Blue coloration of fingertips, skin, inner side of mouth or lips.
- In infants, poor eating habits and inability to grow normally may be seen.
- Breathing is faster than normal.
- Excessive sweating
- Pain in chest
- Shortness of breath
- Fainting spells
Treatment of Heart Murmur
In case of innocent heart murmurs, there is no treatment required as the heart is healthy. Also, it may be due to anemia, hyperthyroidism or fever and will recede with the treatment of these conditions. In case of abnormal heart murmurs, the treatment depends on the underlying heart problem. The disease-causing heart murmurs is treated with medication and surgery. Medications include diuretics, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs. Surgery is performed to replace a defective valve, correction of the congenital heart defects or septal defects, etc.
Preventing heart murmurs involves decreasing the risk to health. One should eat a low-fat diet to reduce cholesterol. Exercise regularly to prevent heart ailments. Middle-aged people and those who live a stressful life should get themselves evaluated by a doctor regularly and monitor their blood pressure.
Doctors listen to heart murmurs with the help of a stethoscope and determine whether the murmur is innocent or abnormal. The causes of heart murmur generally is attributed to an infection, disease or aging. Make sure you schedule regular health check-ups and listen to your heart, before it is too late.