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Heart murmurs: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About heart murmurs

Heart murmurs are abnormal heart sounds like that of blowing or swishing. Turbulence of the blood while flowing through heart valves usually result in heart murmurs. Heart murmurs can be ‘innocent’ when they are harmless and ‘significant’ when due to some underlying heart ailment.

The heart consists of two upper chambers namely atria and two lower chambers namely ventricles, which contract in a coordinated fashion. Heart valves are present between upper and lower chambers and also between ventricles and major blood vessels. These heart valves are responsible for maintaining unidirectional flow of blood. Any heart problem which hampers proper closing and opening of valves may result in heart murmurs.

Heart murmurs: Incidence, age and sex

Heart murmurs are commonly seen in the general population. Although it may occur in any age group, it is predominantly seen in adults.

Signs and symptoms of heart murmurs: Diagnosis

Heart murmurs occur in addition to the normal heart sounds of ‘lub’ and ‘dub’. These murmurs can be of different types depending upon the level of loudness and quality of sound. They are called ‘systolic murmurs’ when they occur during contraction of heart muscles and ‘diastolic murmurs’ when the occurrence coincides with relaxation of heart muscles. Heart murmurs can be associated with other symptoms like breathlessness, fainting spells, chest pain and fatigue.

Heart murmurs can be diagnosed by auscultation of chest during physical examination. However, other investigations like ECG, chest x-ray and ECHO may be recommended to diagnose the cause of heart murmurs.

Causes and prevention of heart murmurs

Heart murmurs can result from cardiac or non-cardiac causes. The cardiac cause for murmurs is either due to the turbulent flow of blood through narrowed opening of the valve or backward leaking of the blood through incompletely closed valve. Following are some ailments which may exhibit heart murmurs:

  • Aortic regurgitation or Aortic stenosis
  • Mitral regurgitation or Mitral stenosis
  • Tricuspid regurgitation or Tricuspid stenosis
  • Congenital heart diseases like atrial septal defect, ventricular septal and patent ductus arteriosus
  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
  • Non-cardiac causes like anaemia, pregnancy, thyrotoxicosis and fever

Heart murmurs: Complications

Since heart murmur is a clinical sign of underlying disease rather than an ailment, the complications mainly arise due to the causative disease.

Heart murmurs: Treatment

It is essential to evaluate heart murmur comprehensively and decide the treatment according to the causative ailment. It is advisable to consult a cardiologist for managing congenital heart diseases like atrial septal defect and ventricular septal defect. Surgical replacement of valves can be considered in individuals with valvular heart disease. Likewise heart murmurs arising as a result of anaemia or thyrotoxicosis should be resolved by managing anaemia and thyrotoxicosis.