A heart murmur is an unusual sound that is heard when blood flows through the heart. This sound can be soft or loud and occurs due to turbulence in blood flow.
There are two ways in which heart murmurs can be present: at birth (congenital) or develop later in life (acquired).
Some heart murmurs are harmless, meaning they do not indicate a heart disease and do not require treatment. On the other hand, some heart murmurs can be signs of a serious heart disease. In these cases, the Cardiologist will need to perform tests to evaluate the functioning of the heart and the heart valves.
In many cases, heart murmurs do not cause symptoms and are found during a routine medical check-up. However, in some cases, they may be associated with symptoms such as:
It is important to note that specific symptoms may vary depending on the underlying cause of the heart murmur. Among them, these are the most common:
Displaying bluish or grayish hues in the nails or lips
Experiencing discomfort or pain in the chest area
Having a persistent and recurrent cough
Feeling dizzy or vertigo
Presenting swelling in the liver
Observing an increase in the size of the neck veins
Experiencing fainting or loss of consciousness
Excessive sweating even without intense physical activity
In babies, showing lack of appetite and insufficient growth
Experiencing difficulty breathing
Presenting swelling or sudden weight gain
There are several types of heart murmurs, classified according to their origin and characteristics. Some of the most common types include:
Occurs during the contraction of the heart muscle. These murmurs are divided into two categories: ejection murmurs, caused by blood flow through a narrowed or irregular artery or valve, and regurgitation murmurs, where the blood flow goes back into one of the heart's chambers.
Occurs during the relaxation of the heart muscle between beats. These murmurs can be due to a narrowing (stenosis) in the mitral or tricuspid valves, or regurgitation in the aortic or pulmonary valves.
Occurs throughout the entire cardiac cycle.
Diagnosis of a heart murmur is usually made using a combination of physical exams and additional tests requested by a cardiologist. During the physical examination, the doctor closely listens to the abnormal heart sounds with a stethoscope. Depending on the findings, further exams may be needed, such as:
Echocardiography is an ultrasound modality that uses sound waves to create images that assess heart function.
Electrocardiogram, also known as ECG, analyzes the electrical activity of the heart and graphically represents it as waves.
A chest X-ray allows the visualization of the size and shape of the heart, as well as the location and structure of the main arteries.
Cardiac catheterization is a procedure that can identify heart abnormalities.
All of this to evaluate the structure and functioning of the heart in detail.
Some factors that can increase the risk include:
Congenital heart defects
Connective tissue diseases (such as Marfan syndrome)
In addition, some medical conditions may increase the risk of heart murmurs, such as:
Carcinoid syndrome, a rare type of cancerous tumor that releases chemicals into the bloodstream
Cardiomyopathy, a weakness in the heart muscle
Endocarditis, an infection in the lining of the heart
Hypereosinophilic syndrome, blood disorders characterized by a high number of eosinophils, a type of white blood cells
Autoimmune disorders, like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis
Heart valve disease
Pulmonary hypertension, high blood pressure in the lungs
History of rheumatic fever
Hyperthyroidism, an overactive thyroid gland
Heart murmurs are not always preventable, as they can be associated with congenital factors or underlying medical conditions. However, maintaining good cardiovascular health can reduce the risk of developing heart problems that can cause murmurs.
Heart murmurs are a common condition that can raise concern, but it does not always indicate a serious heart problem. At BlueNetHospitals, we have a highly trained medical team specialized in Cardiology and heart care, committed to providing a comprehensive approach to the diagnosis, treatment, and management of heart murmurs. Book your appointment at the Heart Center Los Cabos.
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