A person is said to have a heart murmur when his heart makes certain abnormal sounds. Our normal heartbeat sounds like lub-dub which is the sound of opening and closing of the heart valve, however in this condition this sound is accompanied by whistling and swishing sounds. These sounds are very common in newborn babies, but they can also be developed during adulthood. Though it cannot be defined as a disease, it may be an indicator of an underlying heart problem. There are actually two types of heart murmur: innocent and abnormal. Since, treatments will be determined by the severity of the condition, one has to take a closer look at the causes and symptoms of this problem.
Innocent heart murmur are often seen in infants and young children when the rate of blood flow increases more than the normal rate. This is actually a temporary condition and does not cause any harm. Also, children and individuals who are affected by health problems like fever, hyperthyroidism, and anemia may also develop this condition. Increased blood flow in pregnant women is also said to be one of the causes of innocent or harmless heart murmur. Old people and those who have undergone some kind of heart surgery may also develop this condition.
Though harmless in most cases, these sounds can also be a symptom of some kind of heart problem. Congenital heart defects have been found to cause heart murmur in babies. One of the most common among them is congenital septal defects, wherein holes are present on the septum i.e. the wall that divides the heart into two. Apart from this, congenital valve defects can also be the reason for this problem. In this case, the valves of the heart are so narrow that blood flow through them becomes very less.
Other than congenital heart defects, certain types of infection and other illnesses can also cause this condition. People affected by rheumatic fever often have heart murmur, as this type of fever has the ability to cause permanent damage to the heart. When inflammation is caused in the inner lining of the heart and valves, a condition called endocarditis may arise, which can also cause abnormal sounds in the heart. Hard or thick heart valves that develops in old people, are also one of the reasons for this condition.
Though there are no symptoms of innocent heart murmur, abnormal murmurs may be accompanied by other symptoms of heart diseases. Some of the symptoms of the latter include:
- Shortness of breath
- Fast breathing
- Dizziness and fainting
- Poor eating habits (in infants)
- Chest pain
- Improper growth (in infants)
- Fatigue or extreme tiredness
- Excessive sweating
- Blue coloring inside the mouth and on the fingertips
Heart murmur is usually diagnosed by the health practitioner while checking a person's heartbeat with a stethoscope during a routine checkup. According to the intensity of the sound, the doctor may ask whether the person has any of the above symptoms and may prescribe some additional physical as well as laboratory tests to identify the main cause of this problem.
As aforementioned, treatment for this condition can be determined only when the degree of irregularity of the heartbeat is diagnosed by the physician. As innocent heart murmurs are not harmful, they are not given any kind of treatment. If it is caused be fever, pregnancy, anemia, hyperthyroidism, or conditions like these, then it stops once these conditions are cured. In the same way, treatment for abnormal heart murmur is closely associated with the treatment of the underlying heart problem.
The two main treatment measures include medications and surgery, which are decided according to the severity of the condition of the heart. In case of medications, antibiotics along with other drugs are given to prevent blood clots, reduce blood pressure, control irregular heartbeat, as well as to control blood cholesterol levels. If the condition is worse, or for people who have congenital heart defects, surgery may be needed to rectify the problem.
Though there are no specific ways to prevent these occurrences, regular blood pressure and cholesterol check up may help in indicating the occurrence of any such problem. If you are experiencing any of the aforementioned symptoms, do not delay in visiting a cardiologist who can do a detailed check up to diagnose as well as analyze the root cause of the problem.