What is a heart murmur?
A heart murmur is a whistling, rasping sound that is heard during a heartbeat cycle. The heart murmur is an extra sound made during a heartbeat cycle. Heart murmurs can be harmless, but they may also indicate a faulty valve, for example. Heart murmurs can be heard using a stethoscope. There are two main types of heart murmur; innocent murmurs and abnormal murmurs.
Innocent murmurs present when blood flows more quickly than usual through the heart. This can result from pregnancy, exercise, illness or growth spurts (e.g. puberty). Abnormal murmurs are common in cases of congenital heart defects in babies, such as valve problems or holes in the heart.
What are the symptoms of a heart murmur?
Often a heart murmur will not be accompanied by other symptoms, however, if they murmur is a result of an underlying heart condition, the following symptoms may also be present:
- Chest pain
- Syncope or dizziness
- Sudden weight gain
- Shortness of breath
- Blue-tinged skin (especially the lips and fingers)
What causes a heart murmur?
Whilst people with a healthy heart can have heart murmurs, they can also result from other problems, such as:
- A heart valve that is thickened or not normal.
- An abnormal communication between two cavities, due to congenital heart disease.
- Hypertension, a pregnancy, anemia, fever or an overactive thyroid gland.
- Congenital alterations in the arteries and veins connected to the heart.
What is the treatment for a heart murmur?
In general, heart murmurs do not need any treatment. If the murmur is associated with an underlying heart problem, such as high blood pressure, it will be necessary to treat this. When the heart murmur is due to valvular disease, a pharmacological treatment or surgical intervention may be necessary.