How dangerous is a heart murmur? it all depends on the cause behind the murmur. According to the American Heart Association, most heart murmurs in adults are caused by defective heart valves, while those in children are commonly the result of congenital heart defects. However, a heart murmur can also be caused by pregnancy, anemia and several other conditions. Other murmurs, known as innocent murmurs, are perfectly normal in certain individuals and represent no risk to the patient.
Heart murmurs which are not innocent murmurs are known as abnormal heart murmurs. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, heart valve problems can be grouped into three types: regurgitation, stenosis, and atresia. Regurgitation occurs when the valve does not close tightly, allowing blood to leak backwards instead of going only forwards. If the flaps of a valve become stiff, thick or fused together, the valve can no longer open completely and the blood flow through this valve will be decreased; this condition is stenosis. Atresia involves a valve without an opening through which blood can pass.
Some people are born with heart valve problems while other people develop them later in life. Congenital heart valve problems are the result of improper valve formation prior to birth. Acquired heart valve conditions are the result of disease. When a heart murmur is identified, the physician will determine whether it is an innocent murmur or an abnormal murmur caused by a heart valve condition. Determining this provides the doctor with insight in to how dangerous the heart murmur is to the patient and provides direction for proper treatment.
Innocent heart murmurs can develop and disappear and cause no harm. Abnormal heart murmurs may cause no symptoms or severe ones. These symptoms remain the same in some patients, while in others they worsen with time. Heart valve conditions causing heart murmurs can be dangerous, as they may result in heart failure, cardiac arrest, stroke and blood clots, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
Certain treatments may lessen how dangerous a heart murmur is to a patient. Lifestyle changes may be critical in some patients who have not formerly taken good care of their bodies. Medications may also be used to lower the risk of complications due to heart murmurs caused by heart valve disease. Depending on your individual case, surgery may be needed to repair the heart valve, though this is usually considered a last measure and not the first line of treatment for heart murmurs.