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Congenital Heart Disease Symptoms: What To Watch Out For

Medically reviewed by Mae Charisse Antalan, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Hello Doctor Medical Panel · Updated Mar 13, 2023

Congenital Heart Disease Symptoms: What To Watch Out For

Congenital heart disease is a condition that affects one or more aspects of the heart’s structure and is present from birth. Both in adults and children, congenital heart disease can alter how blood flows through the heart. People with congenital heart disease require lifelong medical care, and treatments may include routine checkups (watchful waiting), medications, or surgery. What are some congenital heart disease symptoms?

What are the symptoms of congenital heart disease?

The most severe congenital heart defects are known as critical congenital heart defects (also referred to as critical CHDs or critical congenital heart disease). Babies with critical CHDs require surgery or other treatment within the first year of life because, without treatment, critical CHDs can result in serious health issues and even death. For some people, congenital heart disease symptoms don’t manifest until adulthood. For others, symptoms may reappear years after a congenital heart defect has been treated.

Typical adult congenital heart disease signs and symptoms include:

  • Abnormal heartbeats (arrhythmias)
  • Blue fingernails, lips, and skin (cyanosis)
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Experiencing fatigue after vigorous activities
  • Bodily organs or tissue swelling (edema)
  • Hematologic or bleeding symptoms, including bleeding tendencies and easy bruisability
  • Hyperviscosity syndrome, which means the blood has thickened so much that it doesn’t flow freely in the blood vessels.  This manifests with dizziness, fatigue, altered mentation, headaches, and faintness.
  • If your child is older, you might notice that they get fatigued easily. Congenital heart disease can have a multitude of symptoms, especially in babies and young children, including:

    • Quick heartbeat
    • Quickly breathing
    • Tremendous fatigue and exhaustion
    • Swelling of the legs, stomach, or area around the eyes
    • A blue tint to the skin or lips (cyanosis)
    • Fast breathing and exhaustion while a baby is nursing
    • There is no known cure for CHD. Many people undergo heart surgery to repair their hearts, but they are not cured. There may be long-term effects of heart surgery, such as abnormal heartbeats. A cardiologist can frequently detect problems with your heart before you notice any symptoms. These issues are occasionally noticeable right away after birth, though mild defects may not cause any problems until later in life.

      What to do if you have congenital heart disease symptoms?

      Make an appointment with your doctor if you have congenital heart disease symptoms or were treated for a congenital heart defect as a child, or if you are experiencing alarming symptoms like chest pain or shortness of breath. If your child has a severe congenital heart defect, a procedure or surgery may be advised.

      Key Takeaways

      Understanding congenital heart disease symptoms and taking the appropriate action will help improve your/ your child’s quality of life. Consult your doctor for the best treatment plan. 

      Learn more about Congenital Heart Disease here


      Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

      Medically reviewed by

      Mae Charisse Antalan, MD

      General Practitioner

      Written by Hello Doctor Medical Panel · Updated Mar 13, 2023

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