You might be surprised to learn that heart murmurs are quite common. Many people are born with a heart murmur or develop one during childhood, and then outgrow it in adulthood. Others live with a heart murmur all their lives and never even realize it.
These “innocent” heart murmurs, as they’re appropriately called, are harmless and don’t require any kind of treatment. Other types of heart murmurs need follow-up tests to rule out serious underlying causes. Could you have a heart murmur and not know it?
Here at Harlem Cardiology in East Harlem, New York, Dr. Saint-Jaques and his expert cardiology team specialize in identifying the underlying causes of abnormal heart murmurs and recommending treatment to keep you and your heart healthy. Take a minute to learn about the symptoms of a heart murmur that could be evidence of an underlying heart problem.
Potential causes of innocent and abnormal heart murmurs
A normal heartbeat makes two sounds as your heart valves close after the blood flows in and out. The sound, “lub-DUB,” is one we all recognize as a normal heartbeat. When you have a heart murmur, innocent or abnormal, your heart makes swishing or whooshing sounds when the valves close or flutter.
Innocent heart murmurs
Innocent heart murmurs occur when your blood flows rapidly through your heart valves, such as after physical activity or during an adolescent growth spurt. Innocent heart murmurs often disappear over time, but they can also last your entire life without need for treatment or causing health problems.
Abnormal heart murmurs
A common cause of an abnormal heartbeat is something congenital, meaning you’re born with structural irregularities that create a murmur. A hole in the heart or a heart valve abnormality can be present at birth. You may not know there’s a valve problem until later in life.
It’s also possible to develop a heart murmur as an adult. Usually, heart valve issues are the result of infections or health conditions, such as valve calcification or endocarditis, that damage the valves and lead to a murmur.
Check your symptoms
If you have a family history of heart defects, or you have serious health issues such as high blood pressure, it’s a good idea to understand the signs and symptoms of a heart murmur that require medical evaluation, including:
- Chest pain
- Bluish skin, lips, or fingertips
- Dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting
- Shortness of breath
- Chronic cough
- Large neck veins
- Sudden weight gain
- Poor appetite
- Episodes of rapid or irregular heartbeat (palpitations)
You won’t be able to hear your heart murmur, but Dr. Saint-Jacques can detect irregular heartbeat sounds through a stethoscope. If you have sudden chest pain or shortness of breath, seek immediate medical attention.
Treatment for abnormal heart murmurs
If you do have a heart murmur that requires medical treatment, Dr. Saint-Jacques recommends treatment based on the underlying cause of your murmur. If your heart murmur is the result of a leaky valve, medications may relieve your symptoms. In some cases, surgery to replace the diseased or malfunctioning valve with an artificial one can resolve the problem.
Mitral valve prolapse, a condition in which the heart’s valves don’t close properly, often responds well to medications. In rare cases, surgery can repair or replace the heart’s abnormal mitral valve. Sometimes congenital heart problems may need to be corrected surgically.
Your heart health is not something you want to ignore or leave to chance. If you have any of the symptoms listed above, schedule an appointment so our expert cardiology team can evaluate your heart and vascular system.
Give us a call at our East Harlem office at 646-381-2181 or request the next available appointment online.