A heart murmur is a noise that is heard at the moment of auscultation of the heart and means that the blood flow circulates abnormally towards this organ. However, half of the patients with murmurs continue their lives without any treatment and there are cases in which this noise disappears over the years. Let’s know a little more about what they are, what the symptoms are and more in this article.
What is a heart murmur?
In order to understand what a heart murmur is, it is first necessary to refresh some concepts in relation to the functioning of this organ. The heart has four cavities, two lower (ventricles) and two superior (atria), which are separated by valves, through which the blood passes. In a person without a murmur, this procedure produces no sound. When there is an anomaly in the valves, the flow of the blood causes a vibration, which is known as “blowing” by the noise similar to a breath of air. In most cases, it is because a valve does not close well, also if it is narrower or more rigid than the rest.
The heart murmur is only detected when listening with the stethoscope on the thorax and an echocardiogram can determine what is the exact cause. It is good to know that a murmur is common and that it does not always mean that there is a serious illness. In most patients, the murmurs are benign. They usually appear in childhood and even disappear alone. There is a gravity scale in murmurs from 1 to 6. 80% of patients belong to the first (mild) group.
Children usually have murmurs as part of their development, do not require treatment and there are different types (pulmonary, Still and venous flow). It is also common in pregnant women due to weight gain since blood has to do more work to reach the heart. In turn, many patients with murmurs are people older than 60 years, since the walls of blood vessels, tissues and valves are aging over the years.
What are the causes of the heart murmur?
Abnormal noises in the heart can be due to the following causes:
- Thickened heart valves, due to rheumatic fever or atherosclerosis (especially if the murmur is in the aortic valve).
- Abnormal communication between the two superior or inferior cavities, due to congenital heart disease.
- Arteriosclerosis, which affects the arteries and heart valves, producing an abnormal flow of blood and emitting a hissing sound in the arteries.
- Hyperactive thyroid gland
- Congenital alterations of the heart muscle and cavities.
What are the symptoms of a heart murmur?
Benign murmurs have no symptoms and are only discovered when the person goes to the doctor and a general check-up is done. It is not an important disease and most people can live with a breath without altering their routine. Therefore, if the pediatrician diagnoses a murmur in our children or during pregnancy , it should not be cause for concern, but for follow-up.
- discomfort in the chest
- very noticeable neck veins
- difficulty breathing
- swelling in the ankles
- sound respiration
- weight gain
- intolerance to physical exercise or efforts.
What is the diagnosis of a heart murmur?
In order to detect a heart murmur, as indicated above, the doctor performs an auscultation with a stethoscope on the patient’s chest and back, in order to listen well to the heartbeat. The murmurs may change depending on whether you breathe in or out or the position of the body. The technique used is to breathe deeply and then hold for a few seconds.
In addition, you can ask a series of questions to the patient (or to the parents if he is a minor or very small) , of the style:
- Have other members of the family had blows?
- Is there a family history of heart problems?
- Do you have trouble breathing, chest pain or have you fainted?
- Have you gained a lot of weight, suffered from swollen ankles or calves or distended neck veins?
- Do you have blue skin?
- echocardiogram (to investigate the movement of the walls of the heart and its size, the functioning of the valves or if there is valvular disease)
- chest x-ray (to check the size of the heart)
- electrocardiogram (to locate arrhythmias -regularities in the heartbeat- or if the heart is enlarged)
- inhalation of amyl nitrate (alters blood pressure and heart rate momentarily).
What is the treatment of a murmur?
The benign do not require any type of treatment, especially in children. If the murmur is associated with a disease such as hypertension, the cause is treated and not the consequence. If it is due to valvular disease, you can opt for medication or an operation.