What Are Heart Murmurs?
Mitral or aortic regurgitation: In this case, regurgitation means the blood is going the wrong way through the mitral valve or the aortic valve. To counteract this backflow, the heart must work harder to force blood through the damaged valve. Over time, this can weaken or enlarge the heart and can lead to heart failure.
Congenital heart defects: About 25,000 babies are born each year with heart defects, such as holes in heart walls or abnormal heart valves. Surgery can correct many of these problems.
Many children and adults have harmless heart murmurs, which don't need treatment.
If another condition, such as high blood pressure, is causing your heart murmurs, your doctor will treat the underlying cause.
Some types of heart valve disease may require medication or surgery:
- Medicines to prevent blood clots, control irregular heartbeat or palpitations, and lower blood pressure
- Diuretics to remove excess salt and water from the body, making it easier for your heart to pump
- Surgery to correct heart defects someone is born with
- Surgery to correct certain types of heart valve disease
- It's not common, but doctors sometimes ask people to take antibiotics to help prevent heart infection before dental work or some kinds of surgery.
Usually, doctors find heart murmurs during a physical exam. Your doctor will be able to hear your heart murmur when listening to your heart with a stethoscope.
Your doctor may order one or more of the following tests to see whether your heart murmur is innocent or whether it is caused by acquired valve disease or a defect you were born with:
- Electrocardiogram (ECG), which measures the electrical activity of the heart
- Chest X-rays to see if the heart is enlarged due to heart or valve disease
- Echocardiography, which uses sound waves to map the heart's structure
What About Prevention?
In most cases, you can't prevent heart murmurs. The exception: Treating an underlying condition, such as high blood pressure, or avoiding heart valve infection, can stop heart murmurs before they start.
When to Call Your Doctor
Call your doctor about a heart murmur if you feel:
- Chest pain
- Breathlessness, fatigue, or fainting for no obvious reason
- Heart palpitations