What are heart murmurs?
The heart normally produces certain sounds during the process of pumping blood and these are referred to as heart beats. These sounds (usually two in number) are heard as (lubb-dupp sounds) the valves in the heart close. Murmurs are sounds that are heard in addition to the heart sounds during each heartbeat. These murmurs can be categorized as ‘innocent’ murmurs when they are caused due to the increased flow or turbulence across normal valves or as abnormal murmurs when there is an obvious underlying pathology that results in additional heart sounds. Heart murmurs are noted both in children and adults.1
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Heart Murmurs?
The innocent murmurs usually do not result in any symptoms while abnormal murmurs though asymptomatic for many years; can result in various signs and symptoms based on its severity.
The generally noted symptoms include
- Shortness of breath
- Increased tiredness after simple activities such as climbing stairs
- Episodes of rapid heartbeat that are frequently noticed
- Fainting and chest pain
Various other features depending on the underlying disorders may additionally be noted.1,2
What Causes Heart Murmurs?
Abnormal heart murmurs may be caused either due to an improper closing of the heart valves that result in backflow of the blood or due to the gushing of the blood through a narrowed or stiffened heart valve. The murmurs can also be heard due to abnormal opening between the two chambers of the heart.
Some of the conditions that results in heart murmurs include:
- Congenital defects/disorders (disorders present at birth)
- Rheumatic heart disease
- Aortic stenosis
- Mitral valve prolapse
How are Heart Murmurs Diagnosed?
A heart murmur is usually detected when the doctor listens to the heartbeats with a stethoscope. Further, evaluation of the abnormal heart sounds are performed with the help of electrocardiogram, chest X-rays, echocardiography and in certain cases, catheterization of the blood vessels of the heart.
What is the Treatment of Heart Murmurs?
Based on the type, grade and severity of the murmur or the underlying condition after a thorough investigation, physicians decide the treatment for heart murmurs. Innocent murmurs usually do not require treatment. All other abnormal murmurs are treated based on the underlying condition that has resulted in the additional sounds. The treatment options include diet modifications, exercise, certain medications or in certain cases, surgery to repair or replace an abnormal valve.
What are the Complications of Heart Murmurs?
Untreated heart conditions may worsen the condition, which may damage the heart as time progresses. It can result in strokes or cardiac arrest, which may at times be fatal.
How can Heart Murmurs be Prevented?
There are no known methods to prevent the conditions that are present since birth. However, modification of lifestyle (which includes proper diet and healthy practices) is helpful in preventing the conditions that may lead to abnormal changes in the heart. Furthermore, certain precautions are to be taken during infections to prevent worsening of the heart condition.
1.Lessard E, Glick M, Ahmed S, Saric M. The patient with a heart murmur: Evaluation, assessment and dental considerations. J Am Dent Assoc. 2005; 136; 347-356.
2.University of Michigan Health System. Heart Murmur. [homepage on the internet]. McKesson Provider Technologies Available at: http://www.med.umich.edu/1libr/aha/aha_htmurmur_car.htm. Accessed on: 12 June 2008.
Written by: healthplus24.com team
Date last updated: February 05, 2015