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Congenital Heart Defects in Children: Causes, Symptoms, and Diagnosis

21 Mar, 2023

Blog author iconRajwant Singh

A heart abnormality that exists from birth is known as congenital heart disease or a congenital heart defect. The problem can affect:

  • the heart walls
  • the heart valves
  • the blood vessels

Congenital heart defects can take many different forms. They can be as simple as conditions without symptoms or as complex as issues with extremely serious, potentially fatal symptoms.

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One million adults and one million children in the United States currently have congenital heart defects, according to the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionTrusted Source. Nearly all kids with heart defects grow up healthy thanks to advances in treatments and aftercare over the past few decades. For the rest of their lives, some people need ongoing care for heart defects. However, it is noted that many people with congenital heart defects manage to lead full and active lives in spite of their illness.

A structural flaw in the heart that exists from birth is referred to as congenital heart disease (CHD). It can be found at any time during life, including before birth and shortly after. CHD can take many different forms. And hence the symptoms and treatment options depend on the type of defect and its severity.

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The signs of congenital heart disease

When a baby is born, symptoms may already be present, or they may not show up until later in life. They can include:

  • Cyanosis (bluish skin, lips or nails).
  • Excessive sleepiness.
  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing.
  • Fatigue (extreme tiredness).
  • Getting unusually tired or out of breath during exercise.
  • Heart murmur (a swishing sound made by the heart that may indicate abnormal blood flow).
  • Poor blood circulation.
  • Weak pulse or pounding heartbeat

The signs and symptoms vary widely, depending on.

  • Age.
  • The number of heart defects (a person can be born with more than one defect).
  • The severity of the condition

Why congenital heart disease occurs

CHD happens when the fetal heart doesn’t develop correctly in the uterus. Scientists don’t fully understand why that happens, but it may be related to:

  • Abnormal chromosomes or genetics.
  • Drinking or smoking during pregnancy (or significant environmental exposures such as secondhand smoke).
  • Illnesses in the mother during pregnancy (diabetes, drug use, phenylketonuria or viral infection).

What tests are used to identify congenital heart defects?

Before a baby is born, your healthcare provider may use ultrasound pictures of the baby's heart to look for heart defects. This is called a fetal echocardiogram. It's done between weeks 18 and 22 of pregnancy.

During the first few days after birth, all newborns are checked for congenital heart defects. A pulse oximeter is clipped to your baby's hands or feet to measure blood oxygen. If it shows low levels of blood oxygen, more tests will be needed to find out if your baby has a heart defect.

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A healthcare professional may employ a variety of methods to identify congenital heart defects in infants, children, and adults, including:

  1. A physical exam.
  2. certain heart tests to see how the heart is working.
  3. Genetic testing to see if certain gene problems caused the defect.

Treatment Options

The type of congenital heart defect and its severity will determine how it is treated in children. An untreated congenital heart defect occasionally has no long-term impact on a child's health. Other congenital heart conditions, like a tiny hole in the heart, may close as a child gets older.

Treatment is necessary as soon as a serious congenital heart defect is diagnosed. Medication, heart operations or surgeries, or a heart transplant may all be used as treatments.

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Congenital heart defects can have symptoms or complications that can be treated with medication. They can be utilized either independently or in conjunction with a heart procedure. There are various congenital heart defects that are treated with proper medications under the pediatric heart specialist.

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