The sad truth is that there are about 35,000 babies born each year with congenital heart defects. Such a defect could be mild, the problems appear years after birth, or severe, the problems appear right after birth. This is one of the most common birth defects and in many cases they lead to death.
What are the congenital defects of the heart?
Such a problem is an abnormality affecting any part of this vital organ which is already present at birth. Such a defect starts at the early stages of pregnancy, when the heart starts forming.
How do the defects affect the babies?
For sure you know, regarding the congenital defects of the heart, that the organ is a strong muscle pumping blood all over the body. It is divided into four chambers, two on the right and two on the left. There are also four valves that ensure the circulation of blood all over the body.
The truth about congenital heart defects is that in some cases the babies have no symptoms. The condition could be found in case the doctor hears an abnormal sound that is known as a murmur. Healthy children could also have such murmurs, known as innocent murmurs.
If there is any doubt whether the little one has congenital defects of the heart the doctor will ask for additional tests to rule out the possibility. Some of the heart defects can lead to congestive heart failure. The condition means that the heart can’t offer a blood supply big enough to the other organs, such as the lungs.
In case a child is affected by congenital heart defects, he or she may experience breathing difficulties and a fast heartbeat, mostly when exercising. In case of babies, the problems appear during feeding and so they may not gain weight as they normally should. In the same time, the little one could have swollen legs or eyes.
Some of the congenital defects of the heart result in a discoloration of the skin, so that it becomes bluish or grayish. This is known as cyanosis. In the majority of the cases, it appears right after birth and it needs to be examined by a doctor. Rarely cyanosis could appear later in childhood.
If this is a sign of congenital heart defects it means that the blood doesn’t have enough oxygen. The affected children tire easily and have other symptoms as well, such as fainting and shortness of breath that get worse in case of exertion. Children could squat to make their symptoms better.
In case the doctor thinks that a baby could have congenital defects of the heart, he or she will send the little one to a pediatric cardiologist. After a physical examination the doctor could ask for some other tests, such as an X-ray, electrocardiogram or an echocardiogram.
The good thing about these tests for congenital heart defects is that they aren’t invasive and they aren’t painful either. In some cases children with problems of this kind could also have cardiac catheterization. During the procedure, a tube inserted into the heart of the child for the doctors to know how it works.
Causes of congenital defects of the heart
Sometimes the doctor cannot know what caused the abnormality. Nonetheless it is known that the environmental and genetic factors have a word to say. Still there are some new findings. For instance in the past two decades the scientists have found ten gene mutations that could cause such defects.
Although the congenital heart defects seem to be quite scary, in many cases they can be treated.