What Is a Heart Murmur?
In order to understand what a heart murmur is, first, one needs to know how the heart works. The heart is a muscle that has four valves and four chambers which pumps blood throughout the body system through various channels known as the arteries and the veins. When divided into two, right side pumps blood for oxygenation in the lungs while left side receives the oxygenated blood from the lungs and pumps it to the rest of the entire body. Valves, like doors, opens and closes to prevent backflow when allowing blood flow through to one artery or the next chamber. This opening and closing mechanism is what causes the beating sound of the heart also known as the “thud” sound, easily detected by the doctors with the aid of a stethoscope.
Now that everyone is familiar with the heart’s mechanism, a heart murmur can be described as a ‘whooshing’ sound or noise heard in between the heart beat. The sound is an unusual one made by the flow of blood through the heart and can be detected by doctors in both kids and adults during medical checkups. A heart murmur isn’t a disease and most of them are harmless. Heart murmurs have different grades, from Grade 1 which is very faint to Grade 6 which is very loud.
Heart murmurs can be categorized into two; one is the harmless or innocent heart murmur and the other which is abnormal heart murmur.
Innocent/ harmless heart murmurs.
Harmless heart murmur is common in healthy children caused by blood flow through healthy valves and is not as a result of heart problems. They also don’t have any symptoms or signs hence do not require any treatment for it. One does not have to change their lifestyle or reduce on their strenuous physical activities when having this type of heart murmur.
Other names for innocent heart murmurs include: – Mammary soufflé- as in the case of pregnant women, physiologic heart murmurs, benign heart murmurs, functional heart murmurs, still’s murmur- named after a doctor and common in healthy kids between the ages of 3-7 years, normal heart murmurs, and flow heart murmurs.
Abnormal heart murmurs.
People with abnormal heart murmurs may have distinct symptoms and signs of heart problems. Children with abnormal heart murmurs may be due to congenital heart defects or valvular abnormalities present at birth. In some cases, some children have more than one defect. Most often, they are caused by acquired heart valve disease as a result of other existing health conditions such as aging which brings about sclerosis, heart attacks, infections and diseases such as rheumatic fever- damages and scars the heart valve and infective endocarditic in adults. Also, other body illnesses can cause blood to flow faster than what is considered normal, leading to abnormal heart murmur. Treatment is prescribed according to the type of the heart problem and how severe it is, causing the abnormal heart murmur.
The other name for abnormal heart murmur is Pathologic heart murmur.