What are the Types of Congenital Heart Disease?

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Published on 03/08/2020 . 5 mins read
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Congenital heart disease, or CHD for short, is a term used to describe a range of heart complications or defects that are present at birth. These may heal in time on their own, or may remain until adulthood. Congenital heart disease by itself is rarely fatal, but when combined with other factors, it can prove detrimental to a person’s overall health. 

Congenital Heart Disease: What You Need To Know

What are the types of congenital heart disease?

It’s important to know what are the types of congenital heart disease, so that you may be able to understand the risks and complications that may affect your life. 

There are three types of CHD:

Heart valve defects

The valves inside the heart do not close tightly, thereby disrupting blood flow. The heart is impaired and cannot pump blood properly.

Heart Valve Disease: All You Need to Know

Heart wall defects

The walls between the left and right sides of the heart, or the wall between the upper and lower heart chambers, may not properly develop, causing blood to build up where it does not belong. The defect causes the heart to pump harder, leading to high blood pressure.

Blood vessel defects

The arteries and veins that carry blood to and from the heart may not work properly. This constricts blood flow, which can lead to different health problems.

Now you know a little bit more about what are the types of congenital heart disease. However, more research is needed to understand the cause of the disease

It’s worth noting that the cause of most congenital heart defects is unknown. Most cases of congenital heart disease were thought to be due to a variety of factors. They may result from a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

It  has been found that there are several factors that may affect its prevalence. These include:

  • Prematurity. The risk of CHD is two to three times higher in preterm (gestational age <37 weeks) or premature babies.
  • Genetics/ family history. The risk of congenital heart disease increases if a close relative (parent or sibling) has the condition
  • Chromosomal abnormalities, in particular, trisomy 21 (Down syndrome), 13 (Patau syndrome), and 18 (Edward syndrome) and Turner syndrome.
  • Diseases the mother may have contracted during pregnancy such as rubella or influenza
  • Medications the mother may have taken while pregnant
  • Gestational diabetes as well as other maternal conditions that increase the risk, like diabetes mellitus, hypertension, obesity, hyperthyroidism, and epilepsy

Congenital heart disease also affects different parts of the heart. Congenital heart disease may be caused by the following: 

  • Septal defects. A defect is found between the two heart chambers.
  • Coarctation of the aorta. The aorta is narrower than average.
  • Pulmonary valve stenosis. A condition where there is a deformity of the pulmonary valve which slows down blood flow. 
  • The switching of the two important arteries connecting the heart
  • A physically smaller than average heart. 

What does the heart do?

To understand what are the types of congenital heart disease and how these affect your health, one must first know how the heart works and how it complements the functions of other organs. 

The heart is a fist-sized muscular organ that is located in the chest cavity. Its function is to pump blood through the entire circulatory system. 

Blood becomes oxygen-rich as it passes through the lungs, and it supplies oxygen and other nutrients to the various cells and tissues. It also takes care of removing wastes and carbon dioxide. The heart ensures the continuous flow of the blood throughout the body. . 

The heart’s pumping rhythm, or pulse, can be affected by different factors and activities. It can beat faster like when you are exercising to deliver nutrients quicker to muscles to prevent fatigue. It can also beat slower when in a relaxed state, for example when sleeping.

Symptoms of congenital heart disease

After knowing what are the types of congenital heart disease and how it impairs heart functions, it is important to understand its symptoms, which can be confused with other conditions. The symptoms exhibited by a patient with congenital heart disease  include:

  • Abnormally fast heartbeat
  • Rapid breathing and/or respiratory distress
  • Swelling in the legs and thighs
  • Extreme tiredness and fatigue
  • Cyanosis, a condition where the skin turns a blue tinge 

Usually, these symptoms are prevalent in the child’s infancy. However, some infants with CHD may appear normal on routine examination, and the signs may not be apparent. So, it is important to consult your doctor as your infant may also experience tiredness and shortness of breath after feeding sessions.

Congenital Heart Disease Complications to Watch Out For

Congenital Heart Disease Treatment

After understanding what are the types of congenital heart disease and diagnosing which condition you have, the doctor can put you on a treatment plan to improve your health and condition. There are ways to treat these heart problems before they get worse. Treatment will depend  on the severity of the condition of the patient.

Certain medications can help regulate the heart despite its defect(s), by helping prevent blood clots from forming or by ensuring that the  heart beat is stable. There are also medical devices, such as an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator or ICD) and pacemakers, which can correct life-threatening irregular heartbeats.

If the condition is non-life threatening, sometimes medical intervention may not be needed. If the defect in question is life-threatening, measures must be made to repair the damaged organ as soon as possible, such as surgery. The available types of surgery for treating severe congenital heart disease  include:

  • Catheter procedure. This involves inserting a thin tube in the leg of the patient and it is guided towards the heart, which will allow the medical team to correct the defect(s).
  • Open-heart surgery. This is usually reserved for more complicated cases wherein the catheter procedure is not possible. Such surgeries would focus on closing critical holes in the heart, repairing and rearranging the heart valves, or widening the narrow blood vessels for easier blood flow.
  • Heart transplant. This procedure entails using a donor organ. Even after a patient has undergone surgery and treatment plans, the patient’s health must closely be monitored by the medical team. Post-treatment complications may also arise, even late into adulthood.

These post-treatment complications include:

  • Arrhythmias or abnormal heartbeats that could lead to sudden cardiac death.
  • Endocarditis or heart infections due to complications caused by the materials used to repair the heart.
  • Stroke due to the altered blood flow or blood clots entering the brain.
  • Heart failure, where the heart fails to meet the blood demand of the body. 

Certain other diseases or conditions, such as obesity and diabetes, can also affect the already weakened blood flow of someone with congenital heart diseases.

Key Takeaways

Having congenital heart disease  greatly affects the lifestyle of a person. Extra precaution is needed to prevent mild cases from developing into more serious heart-related problems. But with proper knowledge – like understanding what are the types of congenital heart disease and their causes, risks, and symptoms –  and proper medical intervention, one can still live a happy, healthy, normal life.

Learn more about congenital heart disease, here.

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

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