What are symptoms of congenital heart defects?

Congenital heart defects, commonly referred to as a CHD, are typically diagnosed while someone is a child, or before birth. In rare cases, CHDs are undiagnosed until adulthood. This is because some defects are hard to detect.

Diagnosing CHD

If you or your child has a congenital heart defect, you need to know what type, and the severity. This means you will need to follow up with a doctor regularly for diagnosis. Usually, a cardiologist can perform various tests to evaluate a heart problem.

You should expect the doctor to take in medical history and to perform an exam. They may have an EKG or ECG, chest X-ray, or an echocardiogram performed on you. Blood tests may take place and you may need to take more tests to diagnose Congenital Heart Disease such as:

  • Cardiac catheterization
  • Angiography
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • CT scanning
  • Holter recording
  • Stress testing

What are Symptoms of Congenital Heart Defects?

Severe heart problems are usually more obvious within the first few months after a baby is born. For example, babies may be born with low blood pressure, or even look blue. They may have breathing difficulties, feeding problems, or poor weight gain based on the type of congenital heart defect they have.

Most often minor defects are diagnosed during a standard medical check-up because they rarely cause symptoms. Most heart murmurs in children are normal, in some cases, they may be due to defects.

For significant heart problems, it is important that you are referred to a pediatric cardiologist. Pediatric cardiologists are trained to diagnose and treat heart problems. They specialize in infants, children, and young adults. They have the expertise and equipment for small bodies, and to determine what treatments your child will need, or how often they need to go to checkups.

Symptoms to Look Out For in Babies

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Rapid breathing
  • Swelling of the legs, tummy or around the eyes
  • Extreme tiredness and fatigue
  • Blue tinge to the skin or lips (known as cyanosis)
  • Tiredness and rapid breathing when a baby is feeding

Symptoms to Look Out For in Adults

  • Shortness of breath
  • Poor exercise tolerance

Common CHDs Affecting Adults

  • Patent Ductus Arteriosus
  • Anomalous Pulmonary Veins
  • Coarctation of the Aorta (CoA)
  • Ebstein Anomaly
  • Pulmonary Artery Stenosis
  • Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF)
  • Transposition of the Great Arteries (TGA)
  • Pulmonary Hypertension

Living With CHD

Living with congenital heart disease (CHD) might mean that you need to visit a doctor regularly throughout your life. You most likely will need to visit a cardiologist, go to cardiology treatments, and have repeat surgeries or other interventions. It does depend on the type of heart defect you have and how complex it is, but generally, there will be doctor appointments required. Whether you suffer from a simple, moderate, or complex disease, you have options to take care of yourself.

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