The Heart Murmurs refer to the abnormal sound of blood flowing through in or near the heart such as swishing or whooshing. Though the normal heartbeat makes a sound when the heart valves open or close known as “valves sound”, murmurs are different from that caused when the valves don’t open or close properly.
Heart Murmurs are usually harmless but it can be a warning sign for many underlying conditions. It can make the heart to beat faster or force it to handle more blood than usual.
It is generally categorized into two main types:
- Innocent Heart Murmur: This type of murmurs occur where there is no underlying heart condition or structural abnormality present. These may be caused due to high blood flow or minor valve dysfunction, which can easily be monitored by health professionals. Usually, these murmurs cured itself and don’t require any such treatment. People having this condition can easily lead their normal life without any problem. They can exercise and participate in sports.
- Abnormal Heart Murmurs: These types of murmurs occur when there is an underlying condition. These are rare and less common than innocent Heart Murmurs. These are not congenital and occur over time. Generally, these are associated with heart valve diseases.
Some Facts About Heart Murmurs
- Heart Murmurs are a sound that results from the turbulence or vibrations caused by blood while flowing through the heart.
- Apart from innocent and abnormal, there are also flow murmurs, where the blood flows very fast through the heart and creates unusual sound.
- According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information reports, approximately 72% of children will experience Heart Murmurs at some point in their lives.
- According to the Aurora Healthcare article, innocent murmurs are more common in children age 3 to 7.
- In cases a person experiences Heart Murmurs, he/she should immediately seek professional help. Doctors check the sound with the help of a stethoscope and prescribed the required treatments.
Causes of Heart Murmurs
There are many possible reasons for murmurs but the most common cause for Heart Murmurs is heart valve disease and congenital heart disease. Other causes are:
- Valve Disease: Problems related to heart valves such as a bicuspid aortic valve and aortic stenosis can cause this condition.
- Ventricular Diseases: Problems that affect the ventricles and disturbs blood flow through them can be another reason for murmurs. For example functional mitral regurgitation.
- Congenital Heart Disease: Heart conditions that are present from birth, can cause murmurs. For example, the chances of murmurs increase in case a person born with a hole in the heart.
- Complications of Other Conditions: There are some health problems that affect the heart like lupus and endocarditis. These conditions can also cause a heart murmur. Other factors that can lead to high blood flow such as pregnancy, hyperthyroidism, exercise, rapid growth spurts, fever, and anemia can also cause innocent murmurs.
- Defect in the Heart’s Structure: Defects that affect pulmonary valve, aortic valve, ventricular septum, and atrial septum can also lead to murmurs.
Other condition that can cause Heart Murmurs are:
- Degenerative valve disease
- Hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy
- Turner’s syndrome
- Left ventricular outflow tract obstruction
- Marfan syndrome
- Noonan syndrome
- Ehlers–Danlos syndrome
- Systemic lupus erythematosus
- Rheumatic fever
- Congenital rubella syndrome
- Mitral valve prolapse
- Ebstein’s anomaly
Risk factor of Heart Murmurs include:
- Family history of a heart defect
- High blood pressure
- Pulmonary hypertension
Symptoms of Heart Murmurs
Generally, people don’t have any symptoms but in some cases, there are some symptoms which include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chronic cough
- bluish skin
- Swelling in the abdomen or legs
- Difficulty feeding
- A bluish hue to the skin
- Stunted growth
- Excessive fussiness
- Breathing difficulties
Diagnosis of Heart Murmurs
To diagnose Heart Murmurs, doctors first monitor the sound with the help of stethoscope and perform physical examination. The doctor will consider some of the following factors:
- How loud the sound is? The sound scale ranges from 1 to 6 and 6 is the loudest.
- What is the pitch? low, medium, or high
- Where it is in the heart? This can be heard in from back or neck
- What affects the sound? Check whether it changes when a person moves or exercise.
- How low does it occur? Whether it is continuous or temporary.
Further test to diagnose Heart Murmurs include:
- Chest X-ray: This test helps in monitoring the image of the heart, blood vessels, and lungs. It helps in determining whether the heart is enlarged result due to the underlying conditions.
- Electrocardiogram (ECG): It is a non-invasive test that records the electrical signals of the heart. ECG help to check heart rhythm, electrical activities, and structural problems.
- Echocardiogram. This test helps to know the structural and functioning of the heart with the help of ultrasound waves. This help identifying the abnormal heart valves.
- Cardiac catheterization. This is a minor invasive test, where a catheter tube penetrates into the artery or vein of an arm or leg that reaches to the heart. This can help in measuring heart pressure.
Doctors can also perform CT-scan and MRI and take blood test to check other possible conditions that may responsible for Heart Murmurs.
Heart Murmurs are usually not harmless, but it can be an indication of other medical conditions. This is why it is important for a person to consult a doctor as soon as he/she notices any symptoms.