What is heart murmur?

Heart Murmur

Heart murmur in children: Overview

A heart murmur is a blowing, whooshing, or rasping sound. The sound is made by blood moving through the heart or the blood vessels near the heart. Murmurs can be heard through a stethoscope.

Children often have murmurs that are a normal part of development and do not require treatment. Heart murmurs can also occur during an illness, especially if there is a fever. These murmurs usually are not a problem and go away on their own.

But sometimes a heart murmur is a sign of a serious problem, such as congenital heart disease or heart valve problems, that may need treatment. Your child may need more tests to check his or her heart. The treatment depends on the specific heart problem causing the murmur.

Heart murmur

A heart murmur is a sound made by blood moving through the chambers and valves of the heart or through the blood vessels near the heart. The sounds can be heard through a stethoscope.

Heart murmurs are common in infants and children and are harmless in most cases. The murmurs usually are not a problem, require no treatment, and go away on their own. Pregnancy, fever, and some types of anemia can also lead to temporary heart murmurs. But some adults have harmless heart murmurs that do not go away.

A heart murmur may sometimes mean there is a more serious problem with the heart walls or heart valves, such as narrowing or leaking of a heart valve (stenosis or regurgitation) or an infection of a heart valve (endocarditis). These problems can cause blood to flow abnormally through the heart valves or chambers, causing a murmur or other sound that the doctor can hear with the stethoscope. These conditions require close monitoring and may require treatment.

What are the symptoms of a heart murmur?

You may not have any symptoms. Your doctor may find a heart murmur during a medical exam. For example, your doctor may hear an extra whooshing or swishing noise along with your heartbeat. If you do have symptoms, they may include feeling short of breath, weak or dizzy, or very tired.

How is a heart murmur treated?

If you have an innocent murmur, you do not need treatment, because your heart is normal.

If you have an abnormal murmur, treatment depends on the heart problem that is causing the murmur and may include medicines or surgery. Not all abnormal murmurs need to be treated. If you have an abnormal murmur and have no other symptoms, your doctor may only monitor your condition with an echocardiogram.

If you have symptoms, you may need to take medicine to lower your blood pressure and reduce your heart's workload. You may need surgery to replace a valve or to repair a valve or a heart defect.

Can you prevent a heart murmur?

Most heart murmurs are normal, and there is nothing you can do to prevent them or cause them. They just happen.

Some abnormal murmurs cannot be prevented either. They are often caused by the effects of aging, infections, or by problems that run in families.

What you can do is take good care of your heart by living a heart-healthy lifestyle. This includes eating heart-healthy food, being active, staying at a healthy weight, and not smoking.

How is a heart murmur diagnosed?

Your doctor will listen to your heart. Doctors can often tell what type of murmur it is by the sound, how loud it is, and where it is in the heart. And they will look for signs of a heart problem. You may have other heart tests, such as an echocardiogram or electrocardiogram.

How can you care for your child who has a heart murmur?

  • Be safe with medicines. Have your child take medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think your child is having a problem with his or her medicine. You will get more details on the specific medicines your doctor prescribes.
  • Encourage your child to have active playtime, unless the doctor says not to.
  • Keep your child away from smoke. Do not smoke or let anyone else smoke around your child or in your house. Smoke harms a child's lungs and leads to an unhealthy heart.

What causes an abnormal heart murmur?

Abnormal murmurs are signs of a heart problem. In children, abnormal heart murmurs are usually caused by problems they are born with, such as a heart valve that doesn't work right or a hole in the wall between two heart chambers.

In adults, abnormal murmurs are most often caused by damaged heart valves. Heart valves operate like one-way gates, helping blood flow in one direction between heart chambers as well as into and out of the heart.

When disease or an infection damages a heart valve, it can cause scarring and can affect how well the valve works. The valve may not be able to close properly, so blood can leak through. Or the valve may become too narrow or stiff to let enough blood through. When a damaged heart valve cannot close properly, the problem is called regurgitation. When the valve can't let enough blood through, the problem is called stenosis.

Heart valves can be damaged by wear and tear that comes with aging. Valves can also be damaged by infections like rheumatic fever or endocarditis.

Some heart murmurs are caused by a thicker than normal heart. When the heart muscle grows too large, it can get in the way of normal blood flow and cause a murmur.

What is a heart murmur?

A heart murmur is an extra sound that the blood makes as it flows through the heart. Your doctor uses a stethoscope to listen to your heartbeat. When you have a heart murmur, your doctor can hear an extra whooshing or swishing noise along with your heartbeat.

It can be scary to learn that you or your child has a heart murmur. But heart murmurs are very common, especially in children, and are usually harmless. These normal murmurs are called "innocent" heart murmurs. There is nothing wrong with your heart when you have an innocent murmur. They usually go away as children grow.

Adults can have innocent murmurs too. Murmurs also happen when your blood flows harder and faster than usual—during pregnancy, for example, or a temporary illness, such as a fever.

Sometimes, though, a heart murmur is a sign of a heart problem. This is called an abnormal heart murmur.

Heart murmur in children: When to call

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if your child has any problems.

©2011-2024 Healthwise, Incorporated

The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.