What is a Heart Murmur?
For the duration of a physical examination, your doctor generally listens to your heart with a stethoscope. The stethoscope is placed on different parts of your chest to make possible the doctor to hear the sounds your heart valves make as blood passes during your heart. Your heart has four valves which keep blood flowing in the accurate direction through the heart. The valves open and close once during each heartbeat. The first sound is heard when the valves between the upper and lower heart chambers (“mitral” and “tricuspid” valves) shut. The second heart sound is heard when the valves between the lower heart chambers and major blood vessels (“aortic” and “pulmonary” valves) close. A heart murmur is a ‘whooshing’ sound heard when there is turbulent or irregular blood flow across one or more heart valves.
What are symptoms that may be associated with Heart Murmurs?
Heart murmurs themselves do not reason you to feel any symptoms, and are often only picked up by your doctor during a routine physical examination. However, if the murmur is due to underlying heart illness, symptoms that may suggest underlying heart illness include:
Shortness of breath or difficulty catching your breath, either during exertion or at rest.
- Chest discomfort
- Heart palpitations (“heart racing” or beating irregularly)
- Light-headedness or dizziness
- Difficulty lying flat in bed due to shortness of breath
- Swelling of ankles or abdomen
How is the cause of a Heart Murmur diagnosed?
After your doctor takes a total medical history and performs a physical examination to assess the clinical type and severity of the murmur, further tests are generally needed. These tests help your doctor to decide why the murmur might be present, which valve or part of the heart is involved, how severe the problem is and what treatment is necessary. These tests may include:
- Electrocardiography (ECG)
- Chest x-ray
- Blood tests
- Echocardiography (heart ultrasound)
- Exercise stress test
What are the possible treatment options for Murmurs?
The treatment of heart murmurs depends on the underlying reason of the murmur. Some murmurs (e.g. flow murmurs during pregnancy) may need no exact treatment aside from regular monitoring by your doctor. If murmurs are due to underlying structural heart or valvular problems, then treatment may include medications or heart surgery, depending on the type and severity of heart disease.