Millions of people in the United States live with a condition called congenital heart disease, or CHD. There are many types of CHD, and the condition’s symptoms can vary from person to person. Many living with CHD require lifelong medical care, medications, or surgery. Advancements in the way CHD is treated and diagnosed have led to better outcomes and higher quality of life for people with this condition.
Managing the lifelong effects of congenital heart disease can be a challenge. But getting the information and support you need can help.
What is Congenital Heart Disease?
Knowing how a healthy heart functions can help you understand how congenital heart disease can impact people’s health. The human heart is divided into two upper chambers–the atria–and two lower chambers–the ventricles. The heart’s right side pumps blood through pulmonary arteries into the lungs. Once the blood has been oxygenated in the lungs, it returns to the left side of the heart, where it is pumped throughout the rest of the body.
Congenital heart disease is a problem–or multiple problems–with the physical structure of the heart that affects its functioning. People with congenital heart disease are born with the condition. In children and adults, CHD can change how blood moves through the structures of the heart and lead to a range of symptoms, depending on the severity of the condition. Some symptoms include:
- Irregular heartbeats
- Heart infections
- High blood pressure in the pulmonary arteries
- Heart failure
If you live with congenital heart disease, it’s crucial to have regular medical care and follow a treatment plan that can give you the best outcomes.
Who is Affected by Congenital Heart Disease?
People with congenital heart disease are born with the condition. Many types of structural abnormalities fall under the category of congenital heart disease. Medical researchers haven’t discovered a clear cause for congenital heart disease. However, genetic and environmental factors may increase the risk of CHD.
Congenital heart disease runs in families and is linked to a range of genetic syndromes. Genetic testing allows CHD to be detected before a baby is born.
German measles (Rubella)
If a pregnant person contracts Rubella during pregnancy, it may affect the development of their baby’s heart.
Diabetes (Type 1 and Type 2)
Having diabetes while pregnant may affect the development of the baby’s heart. However, gestational diabetes is not associated with an increased risk of CHD.
Taking certain prescription drugs during pregnancy can increase the risk of birth defects, including congenital heart disease. Drugs like lithium, a medication used to treat bipolar disorder, and isotretinoin, which is prescribed to treat acne, have been associated with heart defects.
Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can increase your baby’s risk of developing heart defects.
Smoking tobacco during pregnancy can raise the risk of congenital heart defects and other serious complications.
Find CHD Support Now
Are you or a loved one looking for CHD support? You are not alone. Reach out to Conquering CHD to find research, resources, and a community of people living with congenital heart disease.