What are the Symptoms of Congenital Heart Defects?

By  ,  National Institute of Health
Jan 12, 2018

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Quick Bites

  • Congenital Heart Defects can be fatal to newborns.
  • Signs aand symptoms are difficult to detect, so be careful.
  • Congenital Heart Defects could lead to heart attacks.

Many congenital heart defects have few or no signs or symptoms. A doctor may not even detect signs of a heart defect during a physical exam. Some heart defects do have signs and symptoms depending on the number, type, and severity of the defects. Severe defects can cause signs and symptoms, usually in newborns. These signs and symptoms may include:

  • Rapid breathing.
  • Cyanosis (a bluish tint to the skin, lips, and fingernails).
  • Fatigue (tiredness).
  • Poor blood circulation.

Congenital heart defects don't cause chest pain or other painful symptoms. Heart defects can cause abnormal blood flow through the heart that will make a certain sound called a heart murmur. Your doctor can hear a heart murmur with a stethoscope. However, not all murmurs are signs of congenital heart defects. Many healthy children have heart murmurs.

Normal growth and development depends on a normal workload for the heart and normal flow of oxygen-rich blood to all parts of the body. Babies who have congenital heart defects may have cyanosis and/or tire easily when feeding. As a result, they may not gain weight or grow as they should. Older children who have congenital heart defects may get tired easily or short of breath during physical activity.

Many types of congenital heart defects cause the heart to work harder than it should. In severe defects, this can lead to heart failure. Heart failure is a condition in which the heart can't pump enough blood to meet the body's needs. Symptoms of heart failure include:

  • Fatigue with physical activity.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • A buildup of blood and fluid in the lungs.
  • A buildup of fluid in the feet, ankles, and legs.
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