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What is Heart Murmur? Print E-mail
Written by Adrian Wozniak   
Tuesday, 20 October 2009
A heart murmur is an extra, unexpected, or abnormal sound that is caused by the flow of blood through the heart.

What is going on in the body?

Except in unusual cases, a heart murmur is only noticed by a healthcare provider when he or she listens to the heart with a stethoscope. The heart normally makes certain sounds while beating. However, extra, unexpected, or abnormal sounds may also be heard. These are called murmurs. A murmur can be normal or abnormal. In abnormal cases, a heart murmur may signify a serious heart disease.

What are the causes and risks of the condition?
Normal or "innocent" heart murmurs are caused by normal blood flow. They are not a cause for concern.

Causes of abnormal heart murmurs include:
# anemia, or low red blood cell counts
# high levels of thyroid hormone, called hyperthyroidism
# rheumatic fever, a complication of strep throat that can damage heart valves
# endocarditis, an infection of the heart that can also damage heart valves
# other types of heart valve damage or changes, such as stiffened valves from calcium deposits, which are common in the elderly. Damaged valves are often described as "leaky," which is called regurgitation, or "narrowed," which is also called stenosis. A heart attack can also cause a murmur from heart valve changes.
# artificial heart valves
# congenital heart disease, or heart defects present at birth, which can cause holes in the heart or deformed heart valves
# mitral valve prolapse, which is a "leaky" heart valve that often has no known cause and is usually not serious
# pregnancy
# thickening of the heart muscles or enlargement of the heart, which can occur due to high blood pressure
# heart failure, also called congestive heart failure

Other causes are also possible.

What are the treatments for the condition?
Treatment for heart murmurs will depend on the cause. Normal heart murmurs need no treatment. If hyperthyroidism is causing the murmur, medications or surgery may be needed to treat the thyroid condition. Anemia may be treated with iron supplements, blood transfusions, or other therapy, depending on the cause of the anemia. Mitral valve prolapse often needs no treatment. High blood pressure may be treated with blood pressure medications. Heart infections may be treated with antibiotics or surgery. If congenital heart disease is present, open heart surgery may be needed to repair the heart. Heart valve surgery can repair or replace damaged valves. Other treatments are also possible.

What are the side effects of the treatments?

Side effects depend on the treatments used. For example, antibiotics can cause stomach upset, allergic reactions, or other effects. Blood pressure medications may cause sleepiness or erectile dysfunction. Surgery poses a risk of bleeding, infection, and reaction to any pain medications used.
What happens after treatment for the condition?

This depends on the cause of the murmur and the response to treatment. If anemia or hyperthyroidism are the cause and these are treated, the murmur may be "cured." However, these conditions may need further follow up or treatment. Someone who has a valve replaced may need to take medications to thin the blood, called anticoagulants, for life. A person with an artificial or damaged heart valve may also be advised to take antibiotics before any dental work or surgery. This is thought to reduce the risk of heart valve infections.

How is the condition monitored?
Heart murmurs may need close monitoring by a healthcare provider. Someone with a leaky or narrowed valve, high blood pressure, or congestive heart failure will need lifelong monitoring.

A person should seek medical attention for any worsening or recurring symptoms.


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