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A normal heartbeat makes two sounds that sound somewhat like a “lubb-dupp” noise to the human ear. Heart murmurs, however, describe a case in which whooshing or swishing sounds are made by the heartbeat. Heart murmurs are caused by turbulent blood in or near the heart, and they can either be present at birth or develop later on in life. While heart murmurs are not considered a disease per se, they can indicate an underlying health problem. In other cases, heart murmurs are harmless and do not require treatment.
Signs and Symptoms
In cases of harmless heart murmurs, also called innocent heart murmurs, you likely won’t have any additional symptoms beyond the abnormal noise created by the heartbeat. If any of the following signs are present as well, though, this is an abnormal heart murmur that could signal a problem:
Most heart murmurs are not serious. If you think your child has a heart murmur, schedule an appointment with your family doctor to find out if this will require treatment or further examination.
Causes and Risk Factors
Heart murmurs are categorized by innocent heart murmurs and abnormal heart murmurs. Innocent murmurs occur in people with a normal heart, and they are common in newborns and children. They can occur when blood flows more rapidly than normal through the heart, which can happen for a variety of reasons:
Abnormal heart murmurs, on the other hand, can be more serious. In children, they are generally caused by congenital heart disease—when babies are born with structural issues in the heart. Common congenital defects that cause this include holes in the heart (also called cardiac shunts or septal defects) and heart valve abnormalities that may be present at birth but are discovered later. Other causes of abnormal heart infections are more common for older children and adults, and may include:
People with a family history of a heart defect are at an increased risk of developing heart murmurs. In addition, people with any of the following conditions may be at higher risk:
Factors that increase your baby’s risk of pregnancy include illnesses like uncontrolled diabetes or rubella infections during pregnancy, or certain medications or illegal drugs taken during pregnancy.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Heart murmurs can usually be diagnosed by a simple exam where your doctor uses a stethoscope to listen to your heart. Determining whether it’s innocent or abnormal is a process that involves several questions and potentially several additional tests.
In cases of an innocent heart murmur, treatment isn’t generally needed. If innocent murmurs are the result of an underlying condition, the murmurs will go away once the condition is properly treated.
For abnormal murmurs, however, treatment may be necessary. There are a couple possible treatments for heart murmurs:
There isn’t much you can do to prevent heart murmurs. Many heart murmurs in children go away as children get older, and for adults, improving the underlying condition associated with heart murmurs will often improve the murmurs themselves.
If you or your child has a heart murmur, your doctor can offer recommendations for treatment.
“Heart murmurs.” The Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-murmurs/basics/definition/con-20028706
“What Are Heart Murmurs?” WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/guide/heart-murmur-causes-treatments#1
The Live Better Team
November 29, 2021
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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.