A quick guide to heart murmurs

Written by: Top Doctors®
Published: | Updated: 10/12/2018
Edited by: Alex Rolandi

Heart murmurs can be heard with a stethoscope and sound like a whooshing or rushing sound in the chest, caused by turbulent blood flow. In many cases, heart murmurs do not cause any harm, but sometimes they can be the sign of another underlying health condition. Sometimes heart murmurs can be present from birth.

Heart murmur symptoms

If it is a harmless heart murmur, otherwise known as an innocent heart murmur, it is very possible that there will be no other obvious symptoms save the sound of rushing blood. In some cases, an abnormal heart murmur may also not exhibit any symptoms. However, if the patient has any of the following symptoms, it will be necessary that they get in touch with a GP or specialist.

  • Swelling or weight gain
  • Persistent cough
  • Pain in the chest
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Profuse sweating
  • Blue skin, especially on the lips or fingertips
  • Loss of appetite


What causes heart murmur?

A person who has an innocent heart murmur does not have any problems with their heart. It is common for newborns or infants to have this type of heart murmur. An abnormal heart murmur is more serious. In children, this type of murmur is often due to a congenital heart disease. In adults, abnormal heart murmurs are usually caused by heart valve problems.


Causes of innocent heart murmurs 

  • Pregnancy
  • Fever
  • Exercise
  • Lack of healthy red blood cells (anaemia)
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Rapid growth during adolescence


Causes of abnormal heart murmur

There are a number of congenital defects that can cause abnormal heart murmurs, including:

  • Cardiac shunts – abnormal flow of blood between blood vessels or heart chambers
  • Heart valve irregularities
  • Valve calcification
  • Endocarditis
  • Rheumatic fever


Who is most at risk of heart murmurs?

The main risk factors for heart murmurs are:

  • Family history
  • Medical conditions such as hyperthyroidism, high blood pressure, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Risk factors for heart murmurs in babies include certain illnesses during pregnancy (such as rubella), or taking specific medications or illegal drugs during pregnancy.


Heart murmur treatments

Treatment is not always necessary for innocent heart murmurs. However, in patients with abnormal heart murmurs, treatment may be deemed necessary. There are a number of treatments available, including medication and even surgery. For more information, please get in touch with a specialist.


By Topdoctors

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