Congenital Heart Disease: What You Need To Know

Medically reviewed by | By

Update Date 13/07/2020 . 4 mins read
Share now

What is Congenital Heart Disease?

The heart is one of the most important organs of the body. It is responsible for transporting blood filled with oxygen through the body. However, some people are born with defects to this organ, which impairs its ability to function properly. The general term used to describe such abnormalities is congenital heart disease.

According to the World Health Organization, congenital heart diseases are among the most common types of birth defects, along with neural tube defects and Down syndrome. 

The US Center for Disease Control (CDC), meanwhile, explains that infants’ conditions vary from mild to severe. Mild cases may involve a small hole in the heart, while severe cases involve parts of the organ completely missing or not properly formed. 

Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of congenital heart disease in adults are:

  • Abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias)
  • Cyanosis, or bluish discoloration of the skin, lips and fingernails
  • Shortness of breath
  • Easily exhausted by physical activity
  • Edema, or swelling of certain organs or body tissue

What is Congenital Heart Disease

While congenital heart disease in infants and children manifests in symptoms, such as:

  • Cyanosis, bluish discoloration of the skin, fingernails, and lips
  • Poor appetite or inability to gain weight
  • Rapid breathing
  • Lung infections

Causes and Risk Factors

The exact causes of these defects have yet to be determined, but the following as factors that can heighten risk for an infant to develop this condition:

Family History

Families with a history of congenital heart disease may pass these on to their children. This may be caused by a genetic condition. Those born with Down syndrome may also have heart conditions.

German measles during pregnancy

German measles contracted during pregnancy can cause serious defects known as congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) in babies. This condition can cause hearing loss, eye problems, heart problems, and other complications.

Certain medication during pregnancy

Pregnant women’s use of medications such as isotretinoin and lithium for treating acne and bipolar disorders may cause heart defects and other abnormalities in her baby (fetus). 

Alcohol consumption and smoking

Drinking alcohol and smoking while pregnant also increases the risk of congenital heart and other birth defects.

Diagnosis

The WHO noted that screenings at preconception, during pregnancy and after birth are all critical to check possible birth defects and conditions.

Preconception screening is important because it can help identify factors that can contribute to the infant having such a defect.

Checks during the pregnancy such as ultrasounds can check a fetus’ development for possible structural abnormalities to the heart.

Neonatal Screening

Neonatal screenings, meanwhile, help identify common signs or symptoms of congenital heart diseases in babies. Examples of these are bluish nails and lips, difficulty in breathing and sluggishness.

Early detection is important so life-saving treatments can be immediately done. However, some of these abnormalities are only detected during childhood or even, adulthood.

Adults who were treated for congenital heart disease during childhood and experience symptoms are advised to check with a doctor. Examples of symptoms are: abnormal heart rhythms, bluish tint to the skin, lips and fingernails, shortness of breath, fatigue upon exertion, and swelling of body tissue or organs.

Treatment

Once a congenital heart disease is detected, the medical intervention will depend on the type and severity.

Surgery or Cardiac Catheterization

Some conditions might require multiple surgeries, while others can be resolved through a procedure called cardiac catheterization. In this procedure, a long tube is threaded through the blood vessels into the heart.

This enables a doctor to check the heart and implement the needed corrections. However, some congenital heart diseases may not be fully treated with the best outcome and improvement to the heart’s function.

Some people who were successfully treated for congenital heart problems experience a resurfacing of issues as complications from childhood surgeries, such scar tissue in the organs.

Complications

Those with congenital heart disease may face additional challenges in terms of mental and physical development.

It attributes this to the poor oxygen supply to the body that affects brain development. This can then lead to:

  • impaired memory
  • speech difficulties
  • low attention span
  • poor impulse control 

People born with such conditions also face increased risk of:

  • endocarditis, a life threatening infection of the heart
  • pulmonary hypertension
  • irregular heartbeats that require them to wear pacemakers
  • blood clots and other heart conditions

Management

The experience of those with congenital heart disease varies depending on the severity of their condition. Those with minor ones are able to live normal lives after treatments, but others with more serious health may require constant monitoring by cardiologists into adulthood.

The CDC further advises parents of children with congenital heart diseases to work closely with doctors so they can make the best choices for their well-being.

Regular consultations allow parents to compile a child’s medical history such as procedures done and medications taken that can be used to guide subsequent doctors who will take on providing healthcare for the patient.

Key Takeaways

A study published on the US National Library of Medicine noted that treatments and the care needed for congenital heart disease are relatively expensive. It recommends that government health agencies to focus on prevention focused on educating women on how to avoid risks.

While there is no guarantee congenital heart diseases can be prevented, managing risks through healthier lifestyle choices. 

Advances in medicine have enabled those born with congenital heart disease to live long and healthy lives. But a person with such a condition might need care throughout his life. Signs and symptoms might still manifest in adults despite getting treatment during childhood.

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

Was this article helpful for you ?
happy unhappy
Sources

You might also like

Hypoglycemic and Hyperglycemic Episodes: How Are They Different?

Knowing the difference between hypoglycemic and hyperglycemic episodes helps diabetics take better care of themselves and their health.

Medically reviewed by Hello Doctor Medical Panel
Written by Jan Alwyn Batara
Type 2 Diabetes 17/10/2020 . 3 mins read

What Are The Common 2nd Trimester Pregnancy Pains?

Pregnancy often comes with various pains and aches. What are the common 2nd trimester pregnancy pains you should know about?

Medically reviewed by Hello Doctor Medical Panel
Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N.
Second Trimester 16/10/2020 . 4 mins read

The Meaning of Nasal Discharge Colors

What does it mean if you have clear nasal discharge? How about yellow or green? In this article we'll talk about the meaning of nasal discharge colors.

Medically reviewed by Hello Doctor Medical Panel
Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N.
Other Respiratory Issues 16/10/2020 . 4 mins read

Breastfeeding Benefits for Preterm Babies: What Mothers Need to Know

Breastfeeding a preterm baby can be difficult, but when you look at the breastfeeding benefits for preterm babies, you'll realize its all worth it.

Medically reviewed by Hello Doctor Medical Panel
Written by Jan Alwyn Batara
Premature Babies 16/10/2020 . 4 mins read

Recommended for you

rapid heartbeat while lying down

Rapid Heartbeat while Lying Down: Symptoms and Causes

Medically reviewed by Hello Doctor Medical Panel
Written by Mayvilyn Cabigao
Published on 19/10/2020 . 4 mins read
how long does covid 19 stay on skin

How Long Does COVID 19 Stay on Skin, And Should You Be Worried?

Medically reviewed by Hello Doctor Medical Panel
Written by Jan Alwyn Batara
Published on 19/10/2020 . 4 mins read
acute and chronic bronchitis difference

The Difference Between Acute and Chronic Bronchitis

Medically reviewed by Hello Doctor Medical Panel
Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N.
Published on 19/10/2020 . 4 mins read
is frequent urination a sign of type 2 diabetes

Is Frequent Urination a Sign of Type 2 Diabetes?

Medically reviewed by Hello Doctor Medical Panel
Written by Mayvilyn Cabigao
Published on 18/10/2020 . 4 mins read