Brandi Barhite 2/5/08 sidebar to main story
Don't overreact to heart murmurs
By JANET NGUYEN
Heart murmurs are normally no problem, but they still should be checked out.
"A majority will lead a normal life," said Dr. Mourhaf Traboulssi, a cardiologist at North Ohio Heart Center Inc.
"Lub-dub" is the sound a healthy heart makes as it beats. A whooshing sound indicates a heart murmur.
Heart murmurs are caused by irregular blood flow through the heart valves, and can only be heard through a stethoscope. They are often detected during routine physical examinations.
Many people with heart symptoms do not have symptoms.
"Finding a murmur doesn't mean there's advanced cardiac disease," Traboulssi said.
If your doctor detects a murmur, don't overreact.
"Look into it, but most times, there's no major changes," he said. "Just to be sure everything's OK."
More than 50 percent of patients will have a murmur that is not serious, he said. Some people can have a "large" sounding murmur and not have any symptoms, Traboulssi said.
The symptoms include chest pain, rapid heartbeat, breathlessness, fatigue or a bluish skin tone.
Some heart murmurs are caused by congenital defects and are present at birth. Others may result from childhood or adult illnesses, including rheumatic fever, heart disease or infective endocarditis.
Traboulssi said it is rare for Americans to have heart murmurs because of rheumatic fever. Rheumatic fever is usually contracted in third world countries, he said.
Pregnancy can also cause the heart to beat faster, changing the rate and amount of blood moving through the heart. The same is true for people with anemia, high blood pressure, an overactive thyroid or a fever.
Physicians may suggest that the patient take antibiotics after dental work or some surgeries to avoid a heart infection. The doctor may also prescribe drugs that prevent blood clots, control irregular heartbeat and reduce blood pressure. Through examinations and proper tests, the doctor should be able to tell what caused the heart murmur.
If the heart murmur is related to more serious heart problems, the physician may refer the patient to a cardiologist. Medication or surgery may be recommended to treat the problem.
Heart murmurs are most often connected to defective heart valves. A stenotic heart valve has a much smaller opening and cannot open completely. A valve may also be unable to close completely. This leads to regurgitation, which is blood leaking backward through the valve when it should be closed.
There is no way to avoid a congenitive anomaly, Traboulssi said.
"A majority will lead a normal life," he said.
Symptoms of a heart murmur
Many people with heart murmurs experience no symptoms. But some murmurs can occur in conjunction with these other symptoms:
* Chest pain
* Rapid heartbeat (palpitations)
* Bluish skin color or fingertips (sometimes seen in babies with congenital heart defects)