In most instances, heart murmurs are harmless. However, some heart murmurs can be a symptom of a more serious heart condition.
When blood flows normally through the heart valves, it makes a two-beat “lub-lub” sound. With a murmur, the blood is not flowing normally through the heart valves, and your physician may hear through a stethoscope any of a variety of “swishing” sounds that can differ in volume, pitch and duration.
Murmurs can be caused by a heart valve abnormality or a defect in the muscular structure of the heart. Some heart murmurs are not considered a problem and may be referred to as “innocent murmurs.”
Differentiating whether a heart murmur is innocent or requires follow-up by a Cardiologist depends on the symptoms, the timing and characteristics of the murmur, and the general condition of the patient.
Heart murmurs related to valve problems should receive follow-up care by a Cardiologist.
Your Cardiologist will look for other signs and symptoms of heart problems, ask about your medical history and whether other family members have had heart murmurs or other heart conditions.
Murmurs may be caused by blood flowing through a heart valve made leaky (a valve that does not close completely, allowing backward flow) or narrow by disease. Murmurs can also be caused by increased blood flow across a valve as a result of medical conditions such as anaemia or hyperthyroidism.
The abnormal changes to the valve cause the abnormal heart sound (murmur).
It is important to have regular physical exams to detect any abnormal heart sounds. Heart murmurs often don’t carry any symptoms at all and are only discovered through the physician’s ears during a stethoscope exam. When there are symptoms—such as shortness of breath, dizziness, or blackouts—they’re often due to an underlying cause, such as damage to the heart valves.
Other tests your doctor may use to decide if the murmur is abnormal include:
- Electrocardiogram(ECG), which measures the electrical activity of the heart
- Chest X-rays to see if the heart is enlarged due to heart or valve disease
- Echocardiography, which usesultrasound to visualize the heart structure and function.
- Interventional cardiac catheterization to assess the pressure in different chambers of the heart. The results help us determine the severity of valve problems or the abnormal blood flow causing the murmur.
Get a checkup, and follow up.
Seeing your doctor at regular intervals is your best bet to ensure that heart murmurs don’t go undetected. And if your doctor does find a heart murmur, schedule a regular appointment with your Cardiologist so any progress doesn’t go unchecked.
When patients with valve disease start developing symptoms, that’s usually an indication that it’s time to take action. In cases of severe valve disease that causes symptoms, corrections will be needed either through surgery or through an interventional catheterization procedure.