A heart murmur is the sound made by the blood flowing through the heart. Heart sounds can occur when the blood is flowing through a valve which has a problem in it. Else a heart murmur can occur when you have a condition in which your heart starts to beat faster. This results in faster blood flow which leads to swishing sounds. Your doctor can hear heart murmurs with the help of a stethoscope. Heart murmur sounds can indicate a heart problem,, but a person with a normal heart can have heart murmurs too. Some people have heart sounds and murmurs since they are born while others develop them as they age.
There are various heart murmur symptoms. If you have normal heart sounds that are harmless then you won’t show any symptoms. But if you have abnormal heart sounds then you are likely to show symptoms such as follows.
It is important to remember that you might not show symptoms when you have abnormal heart murmurs too. It is best to get yourself checked by your doctor to ensure you don’t have any underlying problems.
An innocent heart murmur is caused when the blood is flowing faster than it normally does through the heart. An innocent heart murmur can be caused due to any of the following.
Abnormal heart murmurs can be caused due to the following problems:
Children and babies who are born with abnormal heart valves have abnormal heart murmurs. These are usually found when they become adults, which is when they suffer from problems such as regurgitation where the valves leak due to improper closing. Another problem is stenosis in which insufficient blood flows through the valves.
Abnormal heart murmurs can occur due to cardiac shunts or septal defects, which are holes in the heart. This usually affects infants and children. Their severity depends on where the holes are and what size they are. Holes in the heart can lead to abnormal heart murmurs when the blood is flowing abnormally between the blood vessels.
Rheumatic fever can lead to abnormal heart murmurs. Rheumatic fever is a serious condition that should be treated on time without delay. Although rheumatic fever is now rare, it can affect the heart valves directly leading to an abnormal flow of blood. This causes abnormal heart murmurs.
Adults who have mitral valve prolapse can have abnormal heart murmurs. This is the problem where the mitral valve is unable to close properly due to a section of the valve ballooning out. This can cause abnormal heart murmurs due to the backward flow of the blood through the valve, which can be serious.
Endocarditis can cause abnormal heart murmurs to occur. Endocarditis occurs when there’s an infection in your heart’s lining. This infection can be due to bacteria present in any part of your body that settles in your heart. If endocarditis isn’t treated, it can damage the heart valves leading to abnormal heart murmurs.
Valve calcification is another leading cause of abnormal heart murmurs. This condition is developed when the aortic valve has calcium deposits on it. This leads to a problem at the aortic valve opening as it becomes narrow. This can cause abnormal heart murmurs as it becomes difficult for the blood to flow.
There are two types of heart murmurs - innocent heart murmurs and abnormal heart murmurs. Innocent heart murmurs are normal, which means the person having them has a healthy heart. This is more common in infants and children. Innocent heart murmurs are normal types of heart sounds. An abnormal heart murmur produces a fast heartbeat sound effect that is not normal. That is, an abnormal heart murmur indicates that you might have an underlying problem, such as another heart problem.
The risk factors of heart murmurs are as follows.
Mostly, it is not possible to prevent heart murmurs, especially when you have heart murmurs caused by congenital heart defects. However, you can do something about ensuring that you do not have heart murmurs in the future in some cases. Since heart valve diseases cause heart murmurs, you can ensure that you take precautionary measures to ensure you don’t develop a heart valve disease. If you are able to treat underlying problems of heart murmurs, then there is a possibility that you can prevent heart murmurs. Sometimes, you will be able to stop the heart murmur from taking place.
You can prevent heart valve disease by ensuring you get prompt treatment the moment you think you might have a strep infection. Another way to prevent heart valve disease is to switch to healthy habits. These habits include regular exercise and eating a well-balanced and healthy diet. Since these can lower your cholesterol levels and your blood pressure levels, they are helpful to prevent valve diseases. Your doctor might prescribe medicines that can help prevent heart murmurs. Your doctor may ask you to make lifestyle changes that will enable prevention of heart valve diseases.
Instead of focusing on all types of heart valve disease, you can focus on preventing the types of heart valve diseases that you are at risk for. Your doctor can help you pinpoint which types of heart valve diseases you are most at risk for and how to prevent those diseases from occurring. This can help avoid heart murmurs in the future.
There are different types of heart sounds. How do you determine what heart murmur sounds like? Your doctor is the one who will be able to detect heart murmurs and their type when he listens to your heartbeat using a stethoscope. If you have a physical exam, your doctor will be able to detect any heart murmurs during that time. Various factors will help your doctor determine whether the heart murmur is an innocent heart murmur or an abnormal heart murmur. One of the factors is how high pitched, or low pitched the heart murmur is.
Another factor that helps your doctor determine whether the heart murmur is innocent or abnormal is how loud the heart murmur is. On a scale of 1 being the lowest and 6 being the highest, your doctor notes how loud the murmur is. Your doctor will check where the heart murmur is coming from by determining where it can be heard from. Your doctor will determine whether changing your body’s position and exercising has any effect on the sound or the heart murmur. An important factor that your doctor will find out is how long the murmur is taking place and when it occurs.
If you have a diastolic murmur whereby the heart murmur takes place when blood fills your heart, it might indicate an underlying heart problem. If you have a continuous murmur whereby the heart murmur occurs during a heartbeat, it might indicate a heart problem too. Systolic murmurs are usually innocent heart murmurs but at times can indicate a problem in your heart. If by this time your doctor suspects that you have an abnormal heart murmur, he might suggest that you have extra tests done to find out the exact cause of the problem. These tests are as follows.
Apart from these tests, your doctor might order other tests to be performed based on your heart problem.
If you are diagnosed with an innocent heart murmur, there are chances that you won’t require any treatment since there is no potential threat. If innocent murmurs have occurred because of a condition such as fever, the heart murmurs will stop once treatment for the condition is given. If your doctor diagnoses you with an abnormal heart murmur, then two things can happen. Your doctor might want to monitor you for some time to see how the condition progresses. If it doesn’t pose a threat, no treatment might be required. Another option is treatment.
Two types of treatment can be given - medicines or surgery. Medications prescribed by your doctor will be for treating the heart problem that is causing the heart murmurs to occur. You might be prescribed statins which help to lower cholesterol levels in your body. Heart murmurs can be made worse when you have a high level of cholesterol in your body. Your doctor might prescribe diuretics which are water pills. These are used to remove extra fluid from your body that can lead to worsening of heart murmurs. Beta-blockers can be prescribed for lowering heart rate and managing blood pressure.
Anticoagulants can be prescribed by your doctor to prevent the formation of blood clots. Clopidogrel and warfarin are often prescribed so that blood clots don’t form in your heart as these can lead to stroke. Your doctor might prescribe ACE inhibitors which help reduce blood pressure. These are just some of the common types of medications that can be prescribed by your doctor. Your doctor might recommend other types of medications depending on your condition and which heart problem you are suffering from. Antibiotics can be recommended to prevent an infection from occurring in the heart.
Heart valve problems cannot be treated only with medicines. At times, your heart valve disease needs surgery to be performed. If valve repair is the best treatment option for you, your doctor can recommend any of the procedures as follows.
Annuloplasty is the procedure that is used when there is an abnormal valve opening present in your heart. Your doctor performs surgery whereby the tissue that surrounds the valve is fit together so that it is tight. This is performed with the help of an artificial ring. Once this is done, the cusps of the valve can fit perfectly together and close like they normally should.
Your doctor can recommend valve leaflet repair if you have a faulty cusp. He can do this in various ways, depending on the type of repair that is required. Your doctor can cut the cusp so that it operates properly. Else, he might separate the cusps through surgery, or he may pleat the cusp or leaflet.
Balloon valvuloplasty is a medical procedure that treats a narrow valve. A small catheter is used in this surgery where there is a balloon attached on end. Your doctor threads it and guides to your heart so that it can be properly placed inside the valve. The balloon is inflated so that the narrow valve becomes wider and normal blood flow can occur.
Structural support repair is used when the structural support needs to be repaired. This is done by shortening the papillary muscles and the chordae tendineae, or by replacing the cords that are there to support your heart valves. This is generally used to alleviate the problem of leakage that can sometimes occur due to a heart valve problem.
If the valve repair option is not right for you, your doctor might recommend you have your valve replaced.
Transcatheter aortic valve replacement or TAVR is a minimally invasive procedure that can be recommended by your doctor. In this surgery, a mechanical valve is used to replace the aortic valve. This approach is made by making a small incision in your chest. Another option to perform TAVR is to use a catheter. This type of surgery is not the first option because doctors recommend it to those people who suffer from severe aortic valve stenosis and who are not good candidates for aortic valve stenosis.
Open-heart surgery is another option that your doctor might recommend. Doctors most often recommended this. It is used for treating severe valve stenosis. A tissue valve is used to replace a valve in your heart that has become narrow. Tissue valve can come from someone who has died, or from animals such as a cow or a pig. Tissue valves need replacement eventually. It is possible to use an autograft at times. A mechanical valve can be used instead of a tissue valve, but it requires you to take blood thinners because it has the risk of blood clot formation.
You and your doctor will sit down and discuss the available treatment options. Which option is best for you depends on various factors, and you shouldn’t make your decision in a rush. Instead, you should speak to your doctor openly about your fears and any questions that you might have regarding the treatments that you can choose from. Don’t forget to ask your doctor why he recommends a certain treatment option and how it can impact your life in the future.
Children and adults who have innocent heart murmurs have an excellent outlook since the murmurs are harmless and usually go away on their own. For other heart murmur types, the prognosis depends on the type of underlying problem, the severity of the problem, and treatment. When you get prompt treatment, the prognosis is favourable, which is why timely diagnosis and prompt treatment is necessary in case of heart murmurs. Your doctor will tell you about your outlook and prognosis depending on your condition of heart murmurs and the treatment.
Your doctor will let you know about how you can recover and how to take care of yourself. Certain medications might be prescribed at first, and other times you might need to undergo surgical treatments. Your rate of recovery will depend on your age, whether you have other heart conditions, your overall physical health, and whether you are willing to make any lifestyle changes. You might need to follow a specific diet and lifestyle after treatment, and if you follow what your doctor says, then you might heal faster. Asking your doctor about precautions and how you can recover is a good idea.
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