Heart murmurs are extra sounds in your heart that occur for various reasons. While some may be harmless, others might reveal a serious underlying condition requiring medical attention. Our cardiologists at Modern Heart and Vascular are eager to help you understand and manage heart murmurs, their causes and other cardiovascular conditions.
What Is a Heart Murmur?
A heart murmur is the sound of blood flowing in or around the heart in addition to your regular heartbeat. They can occur continuously or when the heart is filling or emptying. Two types of heart murmurs exist: innocent and abnormal. Innocent heart murmurs typically result from a common condition that makes your heart beat faster or harder, like pregnancy, physical activity or anemia. These murmurs are harmless. They might go away on their own or last forever.
Abnormal heart murmurs, on the other hand, indicate a potentially serious underlying cause. These turbulent sounds in your heart may point to heart valve problems, congenital defects or an otherwise damaged or overworked heart. Abnormal murmurs are not a disease but symptoms of a possibly dangerous condition.
Causes of Heart Murmurs
There are several causes of both innocent and abnormal heart murmurs. Innocent murmurs usually arise from temporary or harmless conditions, not a problem with the heart itself. Factors that cause your heart to pump more blood or work faster than usual, like pregnancy, exercise or rapid growth in children, result in an extra sound in the heart but no damage.
Abnormal heart murmurs can occur because of numerous heart-related conditions. Underlying factors like cardiomyopathy, endocarditis, autoimmune disorders and valvular heart disease can affect how the heart functions. Infections, valve problems or other defects lead to irregular activity or turbulent blood flow that may present as a heart murmur.
Symptoms of a Heart Murmur
Innocent heart murmurs typically don’t come with any other symptoms. Abnormal murmurs, however, might arise with other signs of the underlying cause. While not dangerous on their own, abnormal heart murmurs can notify you of potentially life-threatening conditions. Symptoms might include chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, bluish skin or fingertips and fatigue.
Heart Murmur Treatment
Your doctor or healthcare provider can diagnose a heart murmur during a physical exam by listening to your heart with a stethoscope. Additional tests such as electrocardiograms (EKGs) can determine the type, extent and potential causes of the murmur.
Whether treatment is available or necessary depends on the heart murmur diagnosis. Heart murmurs on their own, like innocent murmurs, do not require treatment and sometimes go away without intervention.
Abnormal heart murmurs are often one symptom of an underlying cause. When treatment is necessary, it often focuses on this underlying condition. Your doctor may prescribe medication to control a heart condition or surgery to address the fundamental issue.
Can You Prevent a Heart Murmur?
Whether it’s innocent or abnormal, there isn’t much you can do to predict the issue or prevent yourself from developing a heart murmur. Many heart murmurs are harmless. If you manage your underlying conditions, you can potentially decrease the chances of a heart murmur arising.
To learn more about heart murmurs in adults, contact Modern Heart and Vascular and schedule an appointment with a cardiologist today.
This page does not provide medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you need cardiovascular care, please call us at 832-644-8930.