What is a heart murmur?
A heart murmur is a sound that is heard when there is abnormal or turbulent blood flow through the heart valve.
You may be used to having a doctor listen to your heartbeat through a stethoscope. If you have a cardiac murmur, your doctor will hear a different sound than usual as blood flows through the chambers of the heart.
Another way to think of the murmur is the unusual noise that blood makes as it flows through the heart.
- Hearts that do not murmur emit a “club dub” sound
- Hearts with murmurs emit a hiss or a whisper
Most heart murmurs are not fatal and do not require treatment. But other cardiac murmurs need treatment because they are a sign of an underlying problem with your heart.
If you suffer from a cardiac murmur, that does not mean that you will always have it. The heart murmur is lost on its own.
Types of a heart murmur
Types of murmurs include the following:
- Systolic murmur: It occurs during the contraction of the heart muscle. Systolic murmurs are classified into ejection murmurs (due to blood run through a narrow vessel or broken valve) and regular murmurs.
- Diastolic murmur: A heart murmur occurs during the relaxation of the heart muscle between beats. Diastolic murmurs are due to narrowing of the mitral or tricuspid valves (stenosis) or reestablishment of the aortic or pulmonary valves.
- Continuous murmur: A heart murmur that happens everywhere during the cardiac cycle.
Causes of a heart murmur
Signs of an abnormal heart murmur problem. In children, abnormal whispers are normally caused by difficulties at birth, such as a malfunctioning heart valve or a hole in the wall in two heart chambers.
In adults, abnormal murmurs are more likely to be caused by damaged heart valves. The heart valves act as one-way gates, helping blood flow between the chambers of the heart, as well as in and out of the heart.
When a disease or infection damages the heart valve, it can cause scarring and affect how the valve works. The valve may not close properly, so the blood will leak out. Either the valve is too narrow or it doesn’t allow enough blood. When a broken heart valve cannot close well, the problem is called regurgitation. When the valve doesn’t allow enough blood, the problem is called stenosis.
Heart valves can be damaged by heart disease or by infections such as rheumatic fever or endocarditis. The usual wear and tear that comes with aging can also cause some damage.
Some heart murmurs are thicker than a normal heart. When the heart muscle grows too large, it leads to normal blood flow and murmurs.
Symptoms of a heart murmur
Heart murmurs are usually asymptomatic (have no symptoms). They are usually found to be innocent and only during routine medical examinations.
The abnormal heart murmur can be associated with a variety of heart diseases, particularly affecting the heart valves. It can indicate the presence of heart disease by:
- Pains in the chest
- Tachycardia (accelerated heart rate)
- Heart palpitations
- Cyanosis (blue tinge to the skin caused by lack of oxygen)
Diagnosis of a heart murmur
Doctors will usually find a heart murmur on a physical exam. Your doctor can hear when you listen to your heart with a stethoscope.
Your doctor may order one or more of the following tests to determine if your cardiac murmur is innocent or caused by acquired valve disease or a birth defect.
- Electrocardiogram (EKG), which includes the electrical movement of the heart
- Chest X-rays to see if the heart is enlarged due to heart or valve disease
- Echocardiography, which utilizes sound waves to map the heart’s structure
Treatment for a heart murmur
The heart murmur is usually innocent. They usually do not require additional treatment or testing.
However, an abnormal heart murmur is a symptom of an underlying condition that requires treatment.
Doctors prescribe treatments to increase blood flow through the valve, decrease damage to the valve, or both. For example, people may need medicine:
- ACE inhibitors
- Anti-arrhythmic medications
- Beta-blockers or calcium channel blockers
- Water pills
Doctors can prescribe the same drug or several combinations.
Some people need surgery to repair a defective valve. However, some people with mild heart valve disease do not always need surgery.
If a heart valve defect begins to significantly affect blood flow through the heart, causing symptoms or increasing pressure in the heart, the valve may need to be repaired or replaced.
There is nothing genetics can do to prevent heartburn. Avoiding drugs and alcohol and treating infections during pregnancy can prevent some heart murmurs in children.
Innocent heart murmur in children and adults have a wonderful outlook because murmurs are harmless and usually go away on their own. For other types of heart murmurs, the outlook depends on the type of underlying problem, the severity of the problem, and the treatment. When you get immediate treatment, the prognosis is positive, so prompt diagnosis and prompt treatment are required in case of a cardiac murmur. Your doctor will inform you of your vision and prognosis based on the condition and treatment of your cardiac murmur.