Heart Murmurs – Causes and Symptoms of Heart Murmurs

Heart murmurs are abnormal sounds such as swishing and whooshing during the heartbeat cycle. The sound is made by the flowing blood in or near the heart that can be heard with a stethoscope. Normal heartbeats make a”lub-dupp” sound, that is made during the closing of heart valves. A heart murmur does not indicate a disease but an underlying heart problem. Heart murmurs do not cause any serious complications and are harmless.

Causes of Heart Murmurs
Heart murmurs are of two types – innocent murmurs and abnormal murmurs. The types of heart murmurs and their causes are as follows.

Innocent heart murmurs –
This type of heart murmur is common in children and newborns. They occur in a person with a normal heart and are harmless. They occur when the blood flows more rapidly into the heart. They stay for a less time or even last for the entire life without causing any other health problems. The conditions that cause innocent heart murmurs are:

  • Hyperythyroidism (excessive amount of thyroid in the body)
  • Anaemia
  • Changes in the heart’s structure that result from surgery
  • Fever
  • Pregnancy
  • Exercise or physical activity
  • Heart changes due to aging

Abnormal heart murmurs – This are more serious heart murmurs. They result from heart problems such as acquired heart problems in adults and congenital heart diseases in children.

Conditions that cause abnormal heart murmurs in children are:

  • Heart valve abnormalities – This heart abnormalities are present at birth and hence called as congenital heart abnormalities. They are mostly discovered later in lifetime and lead to heart murmurs. The two heart valve problems are stenosis (valves that do not allow enough blood to pass through them) and regurgitation (valves that don’t close properly).
  • Cardiac shunts or holes in the heart – Holes in the heart occur when there’s abnormal blood flow between the blood vessels or heart chambers. They lead to heart murmurs. These may or may not be serious, depending on size of the holes and theie location.

The other conditions that cause abnormal heart murmurs in adults and older children are:

  • Mitral valve prolapse – In this condition, the heart’s left ventricle and left atrium doesn’t close properly. When the left ventricle contracts, the valve’s leaflets bulge into the atrium, causing a murmur.
  • Valve calcification – In this condition, the heart valves thicken or harden as aging occurs. Thus valves do not work properly and makes the blood harder to flow through the heart, resulting in murmurs.
  • Endocarditis – This is an bacterial infection where the bacteria lodges in the heart and causes inflammation of the inner lining of the heart and valves. If this condition is left untreated, it damages heart valves leading to murmurs.
  • Rheumatic fever – This is a serious condition that occurs when complete treatment is not taken for a strep throat infection. Heart valves are affected that interfere with the normal blood flow into the heart causing murmurs.

Symptoms of Heart Murmurs

People with innocent heart murmurs do not show any signs and symptoms. People with abnormal heart murmurs show the following signs and symptoms. They are:

  • Fatigue
  • Fainting or dizziness
  • Chest pain
  • Excessive sweating
  • Shortness of breath
  • Abnormal growth and poor eating in case of infants
  • Blue coloring of the skin, especially on the fingertips and lips
  • Weight gain
  • Enlarged neck veins
  • Enlarged liver
  • Swelling

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