Heart Murmurs – What Are They?

Heart Murmurs – What Are They?

Last update: 29 April, 2015

Heart murmurs are actually quite common in our society. As they don’t come up frequently in public conversations, the chances are high that you may not have even heard of the term before.

Let’s start by saying that heart murmurs appear in the form of a sound. This sound may be nothing like the sounds you’ve heard before. It’s an abnormal sound produced when blood flows through your heart valves or via the blood vessels situated closer to the heart. The sound of a heart murmur isn’t as rhythmic as the beating of the heart.

Heart murmurs are a small defect, and the sound gets produced at the time when the heart valves open and close. Heart murmurs are often not healed and serve as an indicator of serious cardiac problems.

What sort of people suffer from heart murmurs?

Heart murmurs may manifest in two different ways:

  • Congenital – In this case, the sufferer may just be born with heart murmurs. It’s very common among children in the form of innocent murmurs that don’t require anything more than regular monitoring and checking for normal heart growth and function in children. In other cases, they may occur due to congenital abnormalities such as improper functioning of either of the two heart valves (which facilitate blood flow to and from the heart), leading to serious complications – this is where regular monitoring becomes extremely important.
  • Acquired – This variant of heart murmurs may develop all of a sudden at any time in life. It’s more commonly found in people who are over 50 years in age.

What are the commonly known causes of heart murmurs?

Apart from the congenital history, heart murmurs may arise from infections or illnesses that damage heart’s valves, leading to defects in the valves and leaving scares behind. Here are some other common causes:

  • Injury of heart valves because of a previous heart attack
  • Rheumatoid fever
  • Defective heart valves
  • Endocarditis
  • Anaemia (depletion of RBC or red blood cells level in the body)
  • Infection
  • Hole in the heart’s wall (atrial septal defect or ventricular septal defect)
  • Fever

All the above mentioned conditions can cause the heart’s valves, the doors of this very important organ, do not shut properly, or turn rigid, thereby preventing adequate blood flow.

Symptoms of heart murmurs

As a first step you must ascertain if the heart murmurs are innocent or not, and whether the person is presenting any other symptoms. It’s important that you get regular checkups done even if they’re innocent, as they need to be kept under control.

Although more serious and abnormal murmurs may lead to clear heart murmur symptoms, this isn’t necessarily always going to be the case. If the person also has other symtopms, they may have serious problems. These include:

  • swelling
  • fainting or dizziness
  • loss of appetite
  • fatigue
  • swollen up or prominent veins in the neck
  • easy sweating
  • light blue skin colour, especially of the skin at the fingertips
  • pain in the chest.

Different kinds of heart murmurs

GPs are the people you should visit for heart murmur diagnosis. A well-qualified doctor will be able to tell you the exact type of murmurs you’re experiencing, their tone, duration and volume. Following are some commonly known variants of heart murmurs:

  • Continuous murmurs – these murmurs occur at any point of the cardiac cycle.
  • Systolic murmurs – these are heart murmurs which occur at the time of cardiac muscle contraction.
  • Diastolic murmurs – heart murmurs which occur when the cardiac muscle is relaxed, in between the heart beats are known as diastolic murmurs.

Do all murmur types indicate a heart disease?

No, not all heart murmurs indicate cardiac problems. Murmurs can occur alongside a fever or anaemia, and these normally disappear again when the person returns to health. Nevertheless, it is always better to seek proper analysis and professional help to rule out any serious trouble using echocardiography or electrocardiograms (ECG), neither of which are invasive. These can be very helpful in understanding your heart’s anatomy and how it works.

Please always remember that your health is of utmost importance. Never neglect the important signs given to you by your heart and your body. See a qualified doctor immediately if you sense any problem.