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What is Congenital Heart Disease?

December 3, 2020

Congenital heart disease which is also called a congenital heart defect is a heart abnormality present at birth which can affect the heart walls, the heart valves, and the blood vessels.

What causes Congenital Heart Disease?

It occurs due to an early developmental problem in the heart’s structure which usually affects the normal flow of blood through the heart which may affect breathing. Research is still going on to find why the heart fails to develop correctly but here are some suspected causes such as:

  • The heart defects may run in families.
  • Having any drug during pregnancy puts a child at a higher risk for a heart defect.
  • Consuming alcohol or drugs during pregnancy can increase a child’s risk of having a heart defect.
  • Women are more likely to give birth to a child with a heart defect if they had a viral infection during the first three months of pregnancy.
  • Increased blood sugar levels or diabetes may affect childhood development and result in congenital heart defect.

What are the Types of Congenital Heart Disease?

There are many types of congenital heart defects, but they can be divided into three main categories:

  • Heart valve defects:

It occurs when valves inside the heart that direct blood flow may close up or leak which causes the problem to the heart ability to pump blood correctly.

  • Heart Wall Defects:

It occurs when the walls that exist between chambers of the heart may not develop correctly, causing blood to back up into the heart or to build up in places where it doesn’t belong. It puts pressure on the heart to work harder, which may result in high blood pressure.

  • Blood Vessel defects:

It occurs when the arteries and veins that carry blood to the heart and back out to the body may not function correctly. This can block blood flow, leading to various health complications.

What are Cyanotic and Acyanotic Congenital Heart Disease?

In both types, the heart doesn’t pump blood as efficiently as it should. Cyanotic Congenital Heart Disease causes low levels of oxygen in the blood while Acyanotic Congenital Heart Disease doesn’t.

What are the symptoms of Congenital Heart Disease?

In some cases, the symptoms of Congenital Heart Disease may not appear until shortly after birth. New-borns with heart defects may experience:

  • Bluish skin, lips, fingers, and toes
  • Trouble in breathing
  • Feeding difficulties
  • Low birth weight
  • Chest pain
  • Delayed growth

In some cases, the symptoms of Congenital Heart Disease may not appear until many years after birth. The symptoms include:

  • Dizziness
  • Abnormal heart rhythms
  • Trouble in breathing
  • Fainting
  • Swelling
  • fatigue

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How is Congenital Heart Disease Treated?

The treatment of congenital heart defect depends on the severity of the defect. The mild heart defect heals on its own with time. Severe defects require extensive treatment which includes:

  • Medications:

Several medications are used to prevent blood clots or control an irregular heartbeat.

  • Implantable Heart Devices:

Devices like pacemakers and implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) are used to prevent congenital heart defects. A pacemaker is used to regulate an abnormal heart rate, and an ICD is used to correct life-threatening irregular heartbeats.

  • Catheter Procedures:

It is used to repair congenital heart defects without surgically opening the chest and heart. During catheter procedures, the doctor will insert a thin tube into a vein in the leg and guide it up to the heart.

  • Open-Heart Surgery:

This surgery is performed to close holes in the heart, repair heart valves, or widen blood vessels and it is done when catheter procedures aren’t enough to repair a congenital heart defect.

  • Heart Transplant:

In the rare cases when a congenital heart defect is too complex to fix, a heart transplant may be needed.

How can Congenital Heart Disease be prevented?

Here are some precautions which women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant can take to reduce their risk of giving birth to a baby with a congenital heart defect:

  • Talk to your doctor about any prescription and over the counter medications you are taking if you are planning on becoming pregnant.
  • Check your blood sugar levels if they are under control or not before becoming pregnant.
  • Avoid exposure to the disease if you weren’t vaccinated against rubella, or German measles and speak with your doctor about prevention options.
  • Concern your doctor about genetic screening if you have a family history of congenital heart defects.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs during pregnancy.

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