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Heart murmurs

Heart murmurs are quite common and often harmless.

They can be present in healthy children, many of whom outgrow them as adults. They may also occur during pregnancy. So-called ‘innocent’ heart murmurs are not associated with medical or heart conditions and do not require treatment or lifestyle changes.

Some murmurs, however, indicate serious problems. They may be caused by blood flowing through a heart valve made leaky or narrow by disease. Murmurs can also be caused by increased blood flow across a valve as a result of medical conditions such as anaemia or hyperthyroidism. Congenital heart defects ( heart problems present at birth) can also cause heart murmurs. These can often be repaired with surgery.

Within the heart there are four chambers separated from each other by valves, or flaps, that regulate how much blood enters each chamber at any time. Healthy valves also help prevent blood from flowing in the wrong direction in your heart.
A healthy heart makes a "lub-dub" sound as it beats. The "lub" ( systolic sound) happens when part of the heart contracts and the mitral and tricuspid valves close. The "dub" ( diastolic sound) occurs when part of the heart relaxes and the aortic and pulmonary valves close. A heart murmur is an extra sound, such as a whooshing, caused by irregular blood flow through the heart valves.

Heart murmurs can be heard through a stethoscope and are often detected during routine physical examinations. If your heart murmur is related to more serious problems, your doctor may refer you to a cardiologist (heart specialist). Medication or surgery may be recommended to treat the underlying problem. Your doctor should be able to tell what causes your heart murmur.

Heart murmur symptoms

Many people with heart murmurs experience no symptoms. However, when murmurs occur in conjunction with these other symptoms, it is best to seek medical advice:

Heart murmur causes

Most heart murmurs are caused by blood flowing through healthy valves in a healthy heart and do not require treatment. However, heart murmurs can be caused by blood flowing through a damaged or overworked heart valve. Heart valve defects may be present at birth or may result from other diseases, such as rheumatic fever, heart disease, heart attacks or infective endocarditis.

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