Heart murmurs are more common in our population than you might think. You may or may not have heard anything about this condition before, as it doesn’t frequently come up in conversation.
Let us begin by mentioning that heart murmurs manifest as a sound: as the blood flows through the heart valves, or through blood vessels near the heart, it emits a characteristic sound that is abnormal. It isn’t entirely rhythmic, or like the heart’s rhythmic beating.
The anomaly is a “murmur”, and is produced in our heartbeats due to a small defect when the heart valves open and close. It is almost as if the air flow were too fast. In numerous occasions it has served as an antecedent to serious cardiac problems.
Who gets heart murmurs?
Heart murmurs manifest in two ways:
- Congenital: the individual is just born with it, and in fact, this is very common in children, even though they are principally “innocent murmurs”, that don’t require anything beyond monitoring to check normal heart function and growth. In other situations, they can be congenital abnormalities, one of the two heart valves (that act as two doors that allow blood to flow), doesn’t function well, which could cause problems. This is when monitoring becomes important.
- Acquired: This frequently develops suddenly at some point in our lives, and is more common in people over the age of 50.
What are the usual causes?
Causes of heart murmurs, beyond the congenital history, could arise because of illnesses or infections that damage our heart’s valves, producing defects in the valves and leaving scars. So, let’s clear up a few factors first:
- Defective heart valves
- Orifices in the heart walls (ventricular septal defect or atrial septal defect)
- Anemia (reduction of red blood cells)
- Rheumatoid fever
- Previous heart attack that left heart valves injured
- All of these factors cause the valves, the doors to our heart, to not close well, or to become rigid, which prevents correct blood flow.
Heart murmur symptoms
The first step is to make sure the murmurs are “innocent”, and do not present excessive symptoms. From there, it is important to have check-ups, because even if they aren’t serious, they still need to be controlled. “Abnormal” murmurs and more serious ones can cause symptoms, but this is not always the case. At any rate, we will talk about a few characteristics that can help you recognize a cardiac problem:
- Being tired
- Having very prominent and swollen veins in the neck
- Having lightly blue colored skin, especially in the fingertips.
- Dizziness or fainting
- Chest pain
- Lack of appetite
- Sweating with the slightest effort
Types of heart murmurs
Physicians are in charge of diagnosing murmurs and categorizing them, analyzing their volume, duration, and tone. They also classify them by intensity. The following are the most characteristic murmurs:
- Systolic murmurs: heart murmurs that occur during the cardiac muscle contraction.
- Diastolic murmurs: heart murmurs that occur during the relaxation of aforementioned muscle, between heart beats.
- Continuous murmurs: heart murmurs that occur at any point in the cardiac cycle.
Do all murmurs imply cardiac disease?
No, not all murmurs imply cardiac disease. They can sometimes be heard in our heart due simply to anemia or fever, and they disappear after some time. At any rate, is is always necessary to have a professional perform pertinent analysis to rule out, or clarify, through electrocardiograms and ecocardiography: neither of which are invasive, and these help to see the heart’s anatomy and how it works.
Your health comes first. Never neglect listening to your own body and your heart. See your doctor for the slightest sign.