Heart murmurs in Australia are estimated to affect around 300,000 people annually. It is estimated that one in seven children will develop a heart murmur at some point in their lifetime.
This article will explore the phenomenon of heart murmurs, including the causes, types, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of this condition.
An abnormal sound characterises heart murmurs during the heartbeat. A stethoscope detects this sound, usually caused by turbulent blood flow in the heart or surrounding areas.
Heart murmurs can range from a faint, inconsequential sound to a loud, concerning sound and can be classified according to intensity, timing, and location. While some heart murmurs are benign and do not require treatment, others may indicate a severe underlying condition.
Therefore, it is essential to understand the implications of heart murmurs and the various diagnosis, treatment, and prevention methods.
What Is a Heart Murmur?
A heart murmur is an abnormal sound heard during a heartbeat cycle due to turbulent blood flow. It is often caused by abnormalities in the heart valve, which is responsible for regulating the flow of blood through the heart.
Heart murmurs can be classified as either innocent or abnormal murmurs. Innocent heart murmurs are harmless and often go away independently, while an abnormal heart murmur may indicate an underlying heart condition. Systolic murmurs occur during the heart’s contraction, and diastolic murmurs occur during the heart’s relaxation.
There are several types of murmurs, each of which can indicate a different underlying heart condition. A heart valve disease, such as rheumatic or congenital heart defect, may cause a heart murmur. In some cases, a heart murmur may be caused by a blockage in a blood vessel, resulting in turbulent blood flow. In any case, it is essential to have a doctor evaluate any murmur to determine its cause and the best course of treatment.
Diagnosing a heart murmur requires a physical exam and may involve imaging techniques such as an echocardiogram or an ultrasound. These tests can help a doctor determine the underlying cause of the murmur and assess the severity of the condition.
Treatment for a heart murmur may include lifestyle changes, medications, or surgery, depending on the underlying cause.
Causes of Heart Murmurs
Numerous factors can create the sonic disturbance known as a murmur, often likened to the rhythm of a breeze rustling through a meadow. Heart murmurs can be caused by various conditions, ranging from those that are innocent and require no treatment to those that are more serious and might need medical intervention.
The following conditions can cause heart murmurs:
- Valve Stenosis: Valve stenosis is the narrowing of a heart valve that impairs the normal flow of blood in the cardiac cycle. Examples of valve stenosis include aortic stenosis, mitral stenosis, and tricuspid stenosis.
- Valve Regurgitation: Valve regurgitation is when a valve does not close properly, causing blood to flow backward. Examples of valve regurgitation include mitral regurgitation, aortic regurgitation, and tricuspid regurgitation.
- Pulmonary Valve Stenosis: Pulmonary valve stenosis occurs when the pulmonary valve does not open properly, decreasing blood flow from the heart to the lungs.
The symptoms of heart murmurs depend on the underlying cause and the severity of the condition. People with valve stenosis or regurgitation may experience shortness of breath, chest pain, swelling of the ankles, and fatigue. Those with pulmonary valve stenosis may also experience palpitations and fainting.
It is essential to consult a medical professional if any of these symptoms occur, as they can help diagnose the underlying cause of the heart murmur. Heart murmurs are sonic disturbances caused by numerous conditions ranging from innocent murmurs to serious ones. Prompt diagnosis and treatment can help to prevent any further complications.
Types of Heart Murmurs
The severity of the sonic disturbance, known as a murmur, can vary depending on the type of condition causing it. Murmurs are caused by irregularities in the heart valves, which are responsible for controlling the flow of blood throughout the body. In some cases, these irregularities can cause chest pain and a heart attack, while in others, they may be innocent heart murmurs.
The most common types of murmurs are aortic and mitral valve murmurs, caused by a backflow of blood through the valves due to the narrowing of the valve or a leak. Aortic valve murmurs are generally caused by narrowing the opening between the aorta and the left ventricle, while a leak in the heart valve causes mitral valve murmurs. These types of murmurs can cause a wide range of symptoms, including chest pain, fatigue, and shortness of breath.
Valvular heart disease is a type of heart condition that can cause murmurs. It is caused by a narrowing or leak in one or more of the heart valves, resulting in a backflow of blood and a blood leak in the heart valves.
Valvular heart disease can cause a range of symptoms, including chest pain, fatigue, and shortness of breath. Treatment for valvular heart disease may include lifestyle changes, medications, and surgery.
Diagnosing Heart Murmurs
Diagnosing murmurs typically requires a physical examination and a review of the patient’s medical history. A doctor will listen to the sound of the heart with a stethoscope to determine if a murmur is present. To identify where the sound is coming from, the doctor will move the stethoscope around the heart’s upper chambers.
In some cases, the rasping sound may indicate a heart infection or a history of heart problems. In addition, chest X-rays and electrocardiograms can be used to supplement the physical examination. The X-ray helps to identify any abnormalities in the heart or blood vessels. An electrocardiogram helps to measure the electrical activity of the heart, its heart rate, and its rhythm.
Sound waves are also utilised to detect and diagnose heart murmurs. By measuring the sound waves, doctors can determine whether the murmur is harmless. This type of testing is important in determining if the patient needs further medical attention or monitoring.
Treating Heart Murmurs
Once a diagnosis has been made, treatment for heart murmurs may be necessary. This can include addressing underlying causes, such as an overactive thyroid, which can cause heart palpitations. Medication may be prescribed to improve the efficiency of the heart chambers and to reduce the risk of heart failure. Surgery may also be necessary in some cases to repair abnormal heart structures.
When it comes to diastolic heart murmurs, treatment is often not needed. A healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise and a balanced diet, can help to keep the heart in good condition. If symptoms worsen, doctors may prescribe medication to help maintain a healthy heart and reduce the risk of heart disease.
In some instances, a stiff heart valve may need to be replaced to improve the heart’s functioning. This procedure can reduce the risk of further complications and can help to improve the quality of life in those with heart murmurs. The success rate of this procedure is very high, with positive outcomes in many cases.
Prevention of Heart Murmurs
Adopting healthy habits is critical to preventing the onset of heart murmurs. The development of abnormal heart murmurs can be avoided with proper lifestyle management. This includes controlling blood pressure, regular exercise, maintaining a healthy diet, and avoiding smoking. These steps significantly reduce the risk of developing a continuous murmur due to a septal defect or a systolic heart murmur caused by abnormal heart muscle contracts.
Certain murmurs in children can be caused by pulmonary regurgitation or stenosis of the tricuspid valve. Parents should ensure that their children are up-to-date with their vaccinations and take them for regular check-ups to prevent these. It is also essential to create a healthy environment, free of pollutants and dust, to reduce the likelihood of the child developing any heart conditions. In addition, the family should ensure that the child engages in regular physical activity and eats a balanced diet.
Ultimately, prevention is the best approach for avoiding heart murmurs. To do this, it is essential to maintain a healthy lifestyle, with regular check-ups and vaccinations for children. Parents must also create a clean and safe environment to reduce the risk of their child developing any heart conditions. Following these steps can significantly reduce the risk of developing a murmur or other heart condition.
Diagnosing and treating heart murmurs can be complex, and understanding the cause is vital. One must be aware of the various types of murmurs and when they should be addressed.
While some murmurs are harmless, others may indicate underlying issues that require medical attention. With proper diagnosis, appropriate treatment can be administered to ensure optimal health.
Preventing heart murmurs is essential, as it can help reduce the risk of complications. One can reduce their risk of developing a heart murmur through lifestyle modifications, such as eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and avoiding smoking.
Taking proactive steps can significantly reduce the chances of hearing a murmur.
If you or someone you know is experiencing a heart murmur, visit Lotus Medical Centre in Brunswick, VIC. Our experienced team of medical professionals will provide you with a comprehensive diagnosis and treatment plan to ensure your optimal health. Visit us today and get the care you need.