a man with a heart murmur
Heart and Vascular

What is a Heart Murmur?

Feb 8 2021

Do you or a loved one have heart palpitations accompanied by chest pain, breathlessness or fatigue? If so, it could be a heart murmur.

A heart murmur is a swishing or whooshing sound made during the heartbeat cycle as turbulent blood flows across the heart valves. Some heart murmurs are harmless and do not need treatment – these are called “innocent” murmurs. However, others may indicate a more serious underlying heart condition that needs to be treated.

What causes a heart murmur?

Innocent heart murmurs are very common and can affect as many as 40% to 45% of children and 10% of adults. Innocent heart murmurs can be caused by conditions that make your blood flow through your heart more rapidly. These include pregnancy, fever, exercise, rapid growth spurts in infants or children, hyperthyroidism or anemia.

An innocent heart murmur is not threatening to your health. However, abnormal heart murmurs need more medical attention.

Abnormal heart murmurs in children are most commonly caused by congenital heart defects. These defects include leaky or narrowed heart valves or a hole in the heart. They can also be caused by conditions that damage the structure of the heart. Infections, valve calcification, inflammation of the heart’s lining and rheumatic fever are all common causes.

What are symptoms of a heart murmur?

Some people with an innocent heart murmur may not feel any symptoms. Further, the condition may remedy itself before the person even knew they had a heart murmur.

If you have an abnormal heart murmur, you could experience chest pain, rapid heartbeat, irregular heartbeat, lightheadedness, fainting or abdominal swelling.

How are heart murmurs treated?

A cardiologist can monitor less severe abnormal heart murmurs but others need immediate treatment.

Depending on the specifics of your heart problem, your provider might prescribe medications for you to take. If medications are not effective in treating your heart murmur, your provider may then recommend surgery.

If you believe you have any of the symptoms above, contact your primary care provider to learn more.

Want to learn more about your heart health? Take our free, online heart risk assessment today.

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