A normal, healthy heart makes a lubb-dupp sound. This is the sound of the heart valves closing. When blood flows through the heart irregularly, a whooshing or swishing sound is detected by using a stethoscope. This is caused by the abnormal flowing of blood across heart valves.
When asked, “What is a heart murmur?”, a doctor might explain it is usually a condition of little concern. Despite this, a heart murmur should be diagnosed and monitored. A heart murmur can be a sign of a more serious medical condition, therefore seeking medical advice is always recommended.
Three Types of Heart Murmurs
A heart murmur is a common condition frequently found in children. It’s so common, in fact, that the first time a person is checked for a heart murmur is at birth. This is known as a congenital heart murmur.
There are three classifications of heart murmurs. They are found in people of all ages and the classification is based on when a murmur occurs during the heartbeat.
- A systolic murmur is when the heart muscle contracts and empties blood. This is the most benign of the three murmurs.
- A diastolic murmur occurs when the heart muscle relaxes and fills with blood.
- A continuous murmur happens when the heart muscle contracts and relaxes.
When a person has a diastolic or continuous murmur, their chances of heart disease increase.
What Are Some Heart Murmur Symptoms?
Many people with heart murmurs experience no symptoms whatsoever. Murmurs are often discovered by doctors during routine physical examinations. In some cases, a heart murmur may exist if you experience the following:
- Skin with a bluish hue and/or blue (or gray) fingernails or lips
- A persistent cough
- Heart palpitations
- Pain or tightness in the chest
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of consciousness and/or dizziness
- Weakness in limbs
- Swollen neck veins
- Heavy perspiration at rest
- Sudden weight gain
Though any of these symptoms (or a combination of them) may point toward a heart murmur, they can also be symptoms of other medical conditions. Therefore, an examination and diagnosis by a medical professional is recommended.
When To Worry About A Heart Murmur
Most heart murmurs are classified as innocent. They are non-threatening and require occasional monitoring. Innocent heart murmurs can develop from anything that temporarily increases blood flow. People who are anemic, have frequent fevers, and partake in high endurance exercise can be susceptible to heart murmurs. Hyperthyroidism and pregnancy can also cause for a murmur.
If you suspect you have a heart murmur, it is always wise to get a physical examination. Though non-threatening murmurs are classified as innocent heart murmurs, they could be a sign of something more serious.
Heart valves can become stiff or narrow when calcium deposits build up. This can cause worrisome heart murmurs signaling the condition. Though rare, a murmur can result from damaged valves and lead to heart disease later in life.
Bacteria or other germs can sometimes cause an infection of heart valves and the organ’s inner lining. This is known as endocarditis, and it can be life threatening. A heart murmur is sometimes the first sign of this.
Rheumatic fever is a rare condition in the U.S. It can develop from complications of strep throat. In individuals who don’t seek treatment for strep, rheumatic fever can occur and affect the heart valves, causing a murmur.
Lowering the Risks of Heart Murmurs
In general, people who live healthy lifestyles are less at risk for medical problems. To lower your risk of heart murmurs and heart disease, the number one thing you can do is eat well and get regular exercise. Other minimizing factors include controlling conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
If you think you might have a heart murmur or are concerned about possible underlying medical conditions, the staff at BASS Medical can help diagnose and treat your condition. At Bass Medical, we consider each patient on an individual basis. Contact us today to discuss your medical needs.