Congenital heart disease is a heart condition that you are born with. Congenital means “present at birth.” The disease itself can range from conditions that are minor to more serious conditions that need treatment. A congenital heart defect occurs when the chambers, valves, or walls of your heart or blood vessels close to the heart, develop abnormally prior to birth. There are various types of defects as well.
Causes & Symptoms of Congenital Heart Disease
There’s no known cause for congenital heart disease most of the time.
However, some known causes include:
- The fetus is exposed to maternal illnesses such as German measles, diabetes, fever illnesses, and an issue metabolizing an amino acid during pregnancy
- Alcohol, smoking or using recreational drugs while pregnant
- Some therapeutic drugs, such as Thalidomide
- Certain environmental factors such as pesticides, excessive heat waves, and air pollution
- Particular inherited genetic defects and abnormalities
To protect your unborn child from developing congenital heart disease, a diet rich in vitamin B2, folic acid, and nicotinamide has been proven effective for this purpose.
Congenital heart disease symptoms include:
- Clammy and cool skin
- Heart murmur
- Fluttering, pounding, or rapid heartbeats
- Blush tint to the skin, fingernails, and lips
- Fast breathing
- Shortness of breath
- Poor weight gain in babies
- Poor feeding-primarily in infants since they get tired easily while nursing
- Clubbing of the nail bed
- Prolonged crying or irritability
- Tiredness during exercise or activity in older children
Diagnosis & Treatment
Congenital heart defects may be diagnosed via ultrasound during a woman’s pregnancy. It can also be diagnosed with a physical exam following birth or because of symptoms the baby is having. Some defects aren’t obvious or diagnosed until adulthood, when your body begins putting more demands on your heart.
If your doctor suspects that your child may have a heart defect, you may be referred to a pediatric cardiologist, or a regular cardiologist if you are suspected of having a heart defect.
Congenital heart disease treatment may consist of medications, surgery, and other procedures including making changes to your lifestyle. You and your doctor will determine the best course of action for the treatment depending on your circumstances.
Living with Congenital Heart Disease
Most people that have been diagnosed with congenital heart disease live full lives. However, there are several things you should be aware of as you go about your life with this condition.
- Educate yourself on the various signs and symptoms to watch out for in order to protect your health.
- Talk to your doctor about cardiac rehab. This is a personalized program that consists of counseling, education, and exercise.
- Individuals with congenital heart disease may be at risk of developing infective endocarditis.
- Consider flu and pneumonia vaccines to protect yourself and stay healthy.
- It is common to feel afraid or worried following a congenital heart disease diagnosis. Find someone that you can confide in whether it be your family or a support group.