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 the condition is present at birth. Known as the most common birth defect, 1 out of every 100 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

There are a few conditions known to increase the overall risk of being born with birth defects, including congenital heart disease. These include:

  • Down syndrome: This genetic disorder affects normal physical development, can cause learning difficulties, and also means the baby has one less chromosome than non-affected babies.
  • Infections in the mother: For example, contracting rubella during pregnancy.
  • Medications: Certain medications taken during pregnancy are known to increase the risk of having a baby with birth defects.
  • Smoking or drinking while pregnant.
  • Poorly controlled Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes in the mother.
  • Chromosomal defects: This includes situations where genes may be altered in any way from normal. The defects can be inherited or spontaneous. Chromosomal defects (or genetic defects/syndromes) are only responsible for 15-20% of all instances of congenital heart disease.

In most cases, congenital heart disease can be diagnosed during pregnancy via routine ultrasound. However, there are still instances where congenital heart disease is not diagnosed until after birth, later in childhood, and even into adulthood.

Signs and Symptoms of Congenital Heart Disease

Some forms of congenital heart disease have symptoms that go undetected. Other forms of congenital heart disease have obvious symptoms. These are typically noticed in babies or children who have not yet received intervention. 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

Types of Congenital Heart Disease

There are many different forms of congenital heart disease and more than one form can occur at the same time. Some of the most common forms of congenital heart defects include:

Septal Defects
Commonly referred to as a “hole in the heart“, septal defects mean there is a hole present between two of the heart’s chambers.

Coarctation of the Aorta
A narrowing of the main large artery in the heart, the aorta.

Transposition of the Great Arteries
The pulmonary and aortic valves typically are in specific locations and connect to other arteries. Transposition of the Great Arteries means the patient’s arteries are switched.

Pulmonary Valve Stenosis
The pulmonary valve controls the flow of blood out of the lower right chamber of the heart to the lungs. In this defect, the pulmonary valve is narrower than normal.

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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