Heart murmurs aren’t always dangerous, but they can (but not always) indicate an underlying heart condition. As an experienced cardiologist, Dr. Henock Saint-Jacques can diagnose and treat heart murmurs — and any underlying heart conditions that contributed to the development of your murmur.
In this article, we’ll explore what heart murmurs are and when they are (and aren’t) considered dangerous.
Understanding what a heart murmur is
First, it’s important to know that a heart murmur is a sound. Under normal circumstances, your heartbeat creates a “lub-DUP” sound, which, according to Mayo Clinic, is what your heart valves opening and closing sound like through a stethoscope.
However, if a whooshing (or swishing) noise is also detected via a stethoscope, it could indicate the sound of turbulent blood flow. This whooshing or swishing noise is the sound of a heart murmur. Heart murmurs can be present when a baby is born, or they can develop later in life.
If a heart murmur is harmless …
If your heart murmur is harmless, it means it isn’t caused by any underlying condition. Innocent heart murmurs typically don’t require any treatment. Increased physical activity, fever, pregnancy, and rapid growth spurts can contribute to innocent heart murmurs. All of these conditions can cause your blood to flow more rapidly. None of these conditions are signs of heart disease or signal potential heart problems.
If a heart murmur is dangerous …
Sometimes the whooshing or swishing noise (which is the sound of turbulent blood) is caused by an issue with your heart. Conditions that may cause abnormal heart murmurs include:
- A hole in the heart (i.e., a septal defect)
- Cardiac shunts (abnormal blood flow between your chambers)
- Heart valve problems (which can be present at birth)
- Valve calcification (thickening of valves)
- Endocarditis (an infection of the inner lining of your heart)
- Rheumatic fever
Although it can be scary to think about a problem with your heart, there is good news: Heart murmurs tend to dissipate once the underlying problem is resolved.
How do you know if you have a heart murmur?
Heart murmurs are detected via a stethoscope. Depending on the cause of your heart murmur, you might also notice symptoms of a heart issue. This can include dizziness, shortness of breath, a bluish tint to your skin (especially on the lips), chronic cough, and chest pain.
Addressing the abnormal heart murmurs
If you have a heart murmur, it’s important to know if it’s innocent or abnormal. Even if it’s innocent, it provides a peace of mind, knowing that there isn’t anything else you need to do.
But if your heart murmur is abnormal, swift treatment can help prevent unwanted complications later. Depending on the underlying cause of your heart murmur, Dr. Saint-Jacques may prescribe medication, such as an anticoagulant, statin, or beta-blocker. If a damaged valve is causing the whooshing noise, you may benefit from surgery. As a skilled cardiac surgeon, Dr. Saint-Jacque may recommend a balloon valvuloplasty, annuloplasty, valve leaflet repair, or annuloplasty depending on your specific needs.
If you have concerns about a heart murmur, we’re just a call away. You can reach our East Harlem, New York, practice at 646-381-218. You can also schedule an appointment via our website.