Know your condition: heart murmurs



Last year, one of my sons was diagnosed with a heart murmur, and as expected, this declaration from the doctor triggered an alarm in the mother inside me. Inspite of the doctor’s reassurances that most heart murmurs are harmless, that kids simply outgrow them with time, that no additional tests are necessary, I needed to a thorough research for my peace of mind. And some of the fruit of my research I share here with you.

What is a heart murmur?

A heart murmur is an unusual sound during a heart beat. They are heard by a doctor through his stethoscope during auscultation. Murmurs are described as “whooshing or swishing” noises which may be soft or loud.

Is a heart murmur a symptom of heart disease?

A heart murmur is not necessarily a sign of heart disease. According to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, there are two types of heart murmurs: innocent or harmless murmurs and abnormal murmurs.

Innocent heart murmurs

According to the American Heart Association

Innocent heart murmurs are sounds made by the blood circulating through the heart’s chambers and valves or through blood vessels near the heart. They’re sometimes called other names such as “functional” or “physiologic” murmurs.

They may occur when blood flow in and out of the heart is faster than usual. A person who has a harmless heart murmur exhibits no other symptoms of heart disease and is perfectly healthy. This type of murmurs is quite common among healthy children. They come and they go. Like our doctor said, it is most likely that my son will outgrow his murmur as he grows older.

Children with innocent heart murmurs do not any medication. They are not suffering from any form of heart disease. They shouldn’t be treated as cardiac patients and their activities and diet shouldn’t be restricted. They are perfectly healthy and normal. However, it is always prudent to keep to a healthy, nutritious diet.

Abnormal heart murmurs

Heart murmurs are deemed abnormal and may be symptomatic of a heart problem when the patient exhibits other cardiac symptoms. Abnormal heart murmurs may be due to several things.

  • Defective heart valves. They are the most common reason behind heart murmurs. A heart valve, for example, cannot open completely because it has a smaller than normal opening. A valve may also be unable to completely closed, causing a backflow of the blood. Defective valves in children are usually due to heart defects at birth or congenital heart defects.
  • Surgery. Sometimes, murmurs appear after heart surgery such as valve replacement or heart bypass. These murmurs may or may not be cause for concerns until further tests are peformed.
  • Diseases such as thyrotoxicosis (overactive thyroid gland) or anemia.
  • Infections
  • Aging

My research confirmed what our doctor told me. Not that I didn’t trust him. It’s just I wanted to see for myself. I still have to keep an eye on my little man though. He’s healthy and active and going strong. But you know what they say – the mommy in us never sleeps.

Photo credit: heart by lusi at stock.xchng

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.
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