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What is Congenital Heart Disease?

Congenital heart disease is a term for a variety of birth defects that affect the normal way the heart works. Congenital means that this condition occurs from birth, meaning the person with CHD is born with it. Known as one of the most common forms of birth defects, 9 out of every 1,000 babies born in the United States suffer from congenital heart disease.

But What is Congenital Heart Disease? And why does it happen?

Why Congenital Heart Disease Happens

In most cases, it can be difficult to diagnose congenital heart disease before the baby is born. There are a few conditions that are known to increase the overall risk of being born with congenital heart disease.

These include:

  • Down’s syndrome: This disorder affects the genetics of a baby, as well as normal physical development. It can also cause learning difficulties. It also means that this baby holds one less chromosome than most of the population.
  • Infections in the mother: This might include contracting rubella during pregnancy.
  • Medications: If the mother takes medications during pregnancy, such as acne medications as well as statins, high risk is known to occur.
  • Smoking or drinking while the baby is in the womb.
  • Poorly controlled type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
  • Chromosome defects: This includes situations where genes may be altered any way from normal. This can be inherited and also be unknown.

Although rare, congenital heart disease can be diagnosed before a baby is born. This is done during an ultrasound scan in pregnancy.

Signs and Symptoms of Congenital Heart Disease

Congenital heart disease has some obvious symptoms. These are typically noticed in babies, and young children.

These symptoms include:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Rapid breathing
  • Swelling of the legs
  • Swollen stomach
  • Swollen eyes
  • Extreme tiredness or fatigue
  • Cyanosis (blue-colored skin)
  • Rapid breathing while a baby is feeding

Typically these problems are noticed after birth, but in the case of mild defects, they may not be diagnosed until later in life.

Types of Congenital Heart Disease

There are many different types of congenital heart disease. More than one of these can occur at the same time. Some of the most common forms of CHD defects include:

Septal Defects

This defect is where a hole occurs in between two of the heart’s chambers. Although this is commonly referred to as a “hole in the heart“, it is considered a septal defect.

Coarctation of the Aorta

The main large artery in the heart is called the aorta. When this defect occurs, it is more narrow than it should be.

Transposition of the Great Arteries

The pulmonary and aortic valves typically are in specific locations and connect to other arteries. This defect essentially switches their positions.

Pulmonary Valve Stenosis

The pulmonary valve controls the flow of blood out of the lower right chamber of the heart. In this defect, it becomes narrower than normal on the way to the lungs.

Healing Through CHD

Although it can be scary to have your child diagnosed with congenital heart disease, it is a livable condition. Contact us today to learn more about the steps you should take when your child is diagnosed with CHD.

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