HEART HEALTH

Heart Murmurs: What are the Causes, Symptoms, and How to Prevent Them?

Around 30% of children and 10% of adults have mild murmurs

Chest pain and palpitations are signs of heart murmurs in adults

Innocent heart murmurs are harmless and don’t require treatment

B
Bajaj Finserv Health
November 16th, 2021
9 mins read

Generally, the hearts make a ‘lub-dub’ sound when it beats. This is normal in a healthy heart. On the other hand, heart murmurs are unusual. These are caused by the normal turbulent or vibrant blood flow within the heart. They make whooshing or swishing sounds. Doctors can hear heart murmurs through a stethoscope. Typically, heart murmurs are of two types, which are: 

  • Innocent  
  • Abnormal

Innocent heart murmurs are harmless and common in children [1]. Around 30% of children and 10% of adults have a mild murmur [2]. Innocent heart murmurs are not injurious and often don’t require treatment. But, an abnormal heart murmur in adults is a sign of an underlying heart condition. It points to sickness and causes other symptoms.

Read on to understand the different heart murmurs causes, symptoms, as well as a few heart murmurs prevention tips.

Additional Read: Heart Attack Symptoms: How to Know if you are Having a Heart Attack

Heart murmurs causes  

  • Innocent heart murmurs 

Innocent heart murmurs can happen due to several reasons. Some of the causes include the following. 

  • Fever
  • Pregnancy
  • Exercise or physical activity
  • Adolescence or phases of rapid growth
  • Hyperthyroidism or high thyroid hormone in your body
  • Anemia or low red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to your body tissues
  • Abnormal heart murmurs 

Abnormal heart murmurs happen for the following reasons: 

  • Holes in the heart (septal defects) 
  • Rheumatic fever [3]
  • Infection of the inner lining of your heart and valves (endocarditis)
  • Heart valve problems present from birth such as stenosis and regurgitation
  • Valve calcification or hardening of valves (mitral stenosis or aortic valve stenosis)
  • An abnormal blood flow between the heart chambers or blood vessels (cardiac shunts)

Heart murmur symptoms in adults 

People with an innocent heart murmur may not show any signs or symptoms. But, if you have an abnormal heart murmur, you could experience symptoms. This will vary based on the cause. Here is a list of the symptoms.  

  • Chest pain 
  • Dizziness 
  • Fainting
  • Swelling of the body
  • Sudden weight gain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chronic cough
  • Fatigue
  • Enlarged liver
  • Enlarged neck veins
  • Palpitations (rapid heartbeats)
  • Swelling in the legs or abdomen
  • Heavy sweating without any activity
  • Poor appetite, excessive fussiness, and breathing difficulties in infants
  • Change of skin color to blue (bluish skin), especially on lips and fingertips

Heart murmurs diagnosis 

Your doctor may make an initial diagnosis by listening to your heart with a stethoscope. Sometimes they also check for any abnormal breathing patterns or changes in skin color. Doctors conduct other tests too. Physical examination and tests will help your doctor diagnose the cause of your heart murmur. Some may even assess your blood pressure and pulse rate. To detect whether your heart murmur is innocent or abnormal, doctors may order a battery of tests. Common tests include: 

  • Electrocardiogram 
  • Chest x-rays 
  • Echocardiography 
  • Cardiac catheterization.

These will determine if you have an innocent or abnormal heart murmur. If your heart murmur is linked with heart problems, your next step is to visit a heart specialist or cardiologist. Medications or surgery may be prescribed to treat heart murmurs.

Heart murmurs treatment 

Innocent heart murmurs usually do not require any treatment or further testing. However, for abnormal heart murmurs, your doctor may prescribe treatment. These generally treat the cause. For instance, doctors may prescribe medicines to prevent blood clots, control irregular heartbeat or palpitations, and lower blood pressure. Drugs such as diuretics [4] are prescribed to get rid of excess salt and water from your body. This makes it easier for your heart to pump. In some cases, surgery may be required to correct heart defects. These may exist from birth or be caused due to heart valve disease.

Heart murmurs prevention 

Heart murmurs are not a disease and are often harmless. You can’t prevent heart murmurs in most cases. But, doctors will treat underlying conditions such as high blood pressure or heart valve infection to prevent heart murmurs. In children, heart murmurs fade as they grow. For adults, improvements in the underlying causes can make the murmurs go away.

Additional Read: 11 Lifestyle Tips to Maintain a Healthy Heart

If you experience indications of heart murmurs in the form of chest pain, breathlessness, or palpitations, consult your heart health care provider. To get advice on healthy lifestyle practices, book an online doctor consultation on Bajaj Finserv Health. Start following recommendations by heart specialists and keep heart murmurs at bay.

Please note that this article is solely meant for informational purposes and Bajaj Finserv Health Limited (“BFHL”) does not shoulder any responsibility of the views/advice/information expressed/given by the writer/reviewer/originator. This article should not be considered as a substitute for any medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always consult with your trusted physician/qualified healthcare professional to evaluate your medical condition. The above article has been reviewed by a qualified doctor and BFHL is not responsible for any damages for any information or services provided by any third party.

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