Heart Murmurs: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment
Author: Disabled World
Synopsis and Key Points:
A heart murmur is a sound that may be heard through a stethoscope and is created when blood passes through specific areas of the heart.
Main DigestA heart murmur is a continuous sound that may be heard through a common stethoscope and is created when a person's blood passes through specific areas of their heart.
Heart Murmur - Abnormal sounds during your heartbeat cycle,such as whooshing or swishing, made by turbulent blood in or near your heart. Heart murmurs can be present at birth (congenital) or develop later in life. An abnormal heart murmur may cause no obvious other signs, aside from the unusual sound your doctor hears when listening to your heart with a stethoscope. But if you have other signs or symptoms, they may indicate a heart problem. Murmurs can also be caused by conditions such as pregnancy, fever, thyrotoxicosis (a diseased condition resulting from an over-active thyroid gland) or anemia.
A person's heart has four chambers, two atria and two ventricles that are separated by cartilage by chamber. The, 'skeleton,' of cartilage is comprised of the atrial septum, the ventricular septum, and four valves - the aortic, pulmonary, mitral, an tricuspid valves, which pump a person's blood flow in a particular route within their heart allowing the most efficient use of every heartbeat to pump blood to the rest of the person's body.
The Way a Heart Works
A person's heartbeat has two phases, systole - when the heart pumps, and diastole - when the chambers of the heart fill with blood. Blood enters a person's right atrium from their body through the vena cava, and then travels through their tricuspid valve into their right ventricle. A systolic heartbeat sends their blood through their pulmonary valve, which separates the right ventricle and the person's pulmonary artery, and to their lung.
In a person's lung, oxygen is delivered to their red blood cells and carbon dioxide - a waste product of metabolism, is removed. Oxygenated blood returns to the person's left atrium and travels through their mitral valve into their left ventricle. Systolic heartbeat also causes the left side of a person's heart to contract and send blood through their aortic valve that separates their left ventricle and aorta. Blood then passes through the person's aorta and delivers oxygen to the tissues of their body.
The sound of a murmur in a person's heart is created when the flow of blood within their heart is not smooth and turbulence occurs. While listening with a stethoscope, a health care professional might be able to hear a heart murmur during a physical examination. It is important to be aware that not all heart murmurs are unusual or dangerous, although if a person has one it may be a sign of a structural abnormality of their heart.
Causes of Heart Murmurs
A number of heart murmurs are harmless and are referred to as, 'innocent,' or, 'functional.' These heart murmurs are caused when blood rushes through a person's heart rapidly during the usual functioning of their heart while no heart disease may be present. An underlying medical condition may also exist that might lead to a functional heart murmur, including situations where a person's heart beats more rapidly such as anemia, fever, pregnancy, or hyperthyroidism.
Congenital heart murmurs are found in some newborns and may be due to abnormalities in the newborn's valves, septae, arteries, or the veins that carry their blood to and from their heart. More complicated forms of heart disease conditions may involve all of these. A number of congenital heart murmurs heal spontaneously without the need for medical intervention, while other forms require surgery to repair them.
'Patent Ductus Arteriosis (PDA),' may cause a heart murmur in newborns. Prior to birth, a person's aorta and pulmonary artery are connected by a small artery - the, 'ductus Arteriosis,' to complete fetal blood circulation. Soon after a person is born, the artery is supposed to close. If a person has another form of congenital heart abnormality, the ductus might remain open to help with maintaining blood circulation.
At times, when there is no congenital abnormality present, the ductus does not completely close and a person might experience a murmur. Often times, the patent ductus arteriosis will close by itself over a period of time. On occasion, medications or surgical intervention might be needed to close off the patent ductus Arteriosis.
Valve abnormalities are abnormalities of the valves of a Preston's heart that have the potential to cause a murmur. Any of the valves in a person's heart might be affected and clinical symptoms depend on the severity of the damages to the valve, as well as whether or not the blood flow pattern within the person's heart is maintained. Every valve issue many times leads to a particular character and timing of heart murmur.
Valve stenosis is a narrowing of a person's heart valve, something that often happens over a period of tome as the valve scars due to injury and scars caused by infections such as rheumatic fever, or from congenital birth defect. Calcification of a person's heart valve might also result in stenosis, causing their heart muscle to work harder to push blood through the more narrow opening, potentially leading to heart failure.
- Valve regurgitation involves a valve that leaks, causing a person's blood to pass backwards against the usual flow pattern in their heart. A person's valve may have bot stenosis and regurgitation.
- Valve sclerosis is a mild narrowing and stiffening of a person's heart valve that is most often experienced in the aortic valve and is due to aging. The condition is associated with atherosclerotic heart disease.
- Valve prolapse is a, 'bowing,' of a person's heart valve that causes some degree of leaking and often times involves the mitral valve.
Endocarditis involves an infection of the lining of a person's heart that might destroy a person's heart valve. The source of the infection is commonly elsewhere in their body - it travels through the person's bloodstream to infect their heart. Many times, there is a previous underlying heart condition present.
Holes in the walls of a person's heart, the septum that divides the chambers of a person's heart, may be the source of a heart murmur. 'Atrial Septal Defect (ASD),' describes a hole in the wall that separates the collecting chamber of a person's heart while a, 'Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD),' is one that affects the wall dividing the pumping chamber.
Heart Murmur Symptoms
Heart murmurs of themselves cause no symptoms and usually cannot be heard by the person with the murmur. The underlying structural issue of the person's heart is what may cause problems. It is important to note that a number of heart murmurs do not present any consequences at all.
Congenital heart disease is something that might be present in newborns, who may have difficulties with breathing or may be cyanotic meaning their heart is unable to circulate blood and oxygen from their lungs to the rest of their body. Some infants with heart issues might have difficulties with feeding, developing, and growing as they usually should. The majority of heart murmurs in children who are well developed are harmless.
In adults, heart abnormalities might cause a person to experience chest pain, swelling of the extremities, and shortness of breath among other symptoms. Palpitations, or a sensation of an irregular heartbeat, are sometimes experiences by people who have heart valve abnormalities.
Treatment for Heart Murmur
Treatment for a heart murmur depends on the specific cause of it, as well as the underlying medical status of the person. A number of heart murmurs do not require further evaluation and can simply be monitored, or are a usual variant. Some heart murmurs are associated with serious infections of a person's heart valves and require the administration of antibiotics. Some people experience heart valves that have structural damages that require surgery to repair.
A heart murmur is the physical finding of an underlying structural issue within a person's heart. A heart murmur itself does not present any complications. The ramifications of a heart murmur are based upon the specific underlying abnormality that is causing the murmur and the effect it is having on the person's cardiac physiology.
It is important to remember that a heart murmur is a physical finding, not a disease or a structural heart problem. Instead, it is a sound that is created due to a potential blood flow issue within a person's heart. Maintaining a life-long, heart-healthy lifestyle might help to prevent some heart valve issues. Lifestyle opportunities include keeping cholesterol, blood pressure, and diabetes under control. Regular exercise and weight management also help to maintain a health heart.
In the past, rheumatic fever was a complication of strep throat, which could cause heart valve damage and the development of a heart murmur. Good screening tests for strep infections and the proper use of antibiotics finds rheumatic fever as a rarely diagnosed condition today.
A number of people who have physiology heart murmurs do not require intervention or care. People whose heart murmurs signal a structural issue with their hearts might be monitored for any symptoms they experience, which will gradually develop over a period of time. In infants and children, heart murmurs due to ventricular or atrial septal defects might require surgical intervention to repair the abnormality, although they can expect to have a healthy heart after surgery. In adults, medications and lifestyle changes might help to minimize the need for surgery to repair or replace a damaged heart valve. The goal is to return the blood flow patterns in a person's heart to usual, allowing the person to return to an active and healthy lifestyle.
Heart murmurs and other sounds
A heart murmur is a blowing, whooshing, or rasping sound heard during a heartbeat. The sound is caused by rough blood flow through the heart valves or near the heart.
Physiology of Murmurs
Before trying to decipher what may be the underlying cause of a murmur, it is important to first understand what the normal heart sounds are, and what normal variations of these sounds may occur.
Heart murmurs are most often caused by defective heart valves. A stenotic heart valve has a smaller-than-normal opening and can't open completely.
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