Congenital Heart Disease: Types, Symptoms & Causes

Congenital Heart Disease: Types, Symptoms & Causes
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Congenital heart disease or congenital heart defect is an abnormality associated with the structure of the heart that exists since birth. It can affect the heart walls, valves, or blood vessels. There are wide varieties of congenital heart conditions ranging from simple to complex which can be fatal and life-threatening. Over the years, the treatment and follow-up care for congenital heart defects has improved significantly. This allows children with congenital heart defects to survive into adulthood.

Types of Congenital Heart Diseases

Congenital heart defects can be divided into three main broad categories as follows:

  • Heart valve defects which interfere with the ability of the heart to pump blood correctly. This happens because the valves inside the heart that direct the blood flow may close up or leak.
  • Heart wall defects can cause blood to back up into the heart or build up in places where it does not belong. This happens because the walls between the left and right sides and upper and lower chambers of the heart may not develop correctly. This in turn can cause high blood pressure as this defect will put pressure on the heart to work harder.
  • Blood vessel defects which reduce or block the blood flow, thus leading to various health complications. This happens because the arteries and veins that carry blood to the heart and back out to the body may not function correctly.

Read Also: Everything you need to know about heart disease

Cyanotic and Acyanotic Congenital Heart Diseases

Doctors classify congenital heart diseases into two types:

  • Cyanotic congenital heart disease
  • a cyanotic congenital heart disease

Both kinds of congenital heart diseases affect the pumping mechanism of the heart because of which it does not pump blood as efficiently as it should. The fundamental difference between cyanotic and cyanotic heart disease lies in their impact on the blood oxygen levels. Cyanotic heart defects directly disrupt the normal blood flow, leading to decreased oxygen saturation, while cyanotic defects primarily affect the heart’s pumping efficiency, potentially without compromising the oxygen levels initially. The low level of oxygen can cause breathlessness in babies and may give a bluish tint color to their skin. Babies may develop certain complications in their later life such as high blood pressure even if they have enough oxygen level in their blood.

Diagnosis of Congenital Heart Diseases

A pregnancy ultrasound can help doctors in detecting a congenital heart defect. Doctors may further investigate the issues by performing various diagnostic tests which may include an echocardiogram, Chest X-ray, or MRI scan.

Symptoms of Congenital Heart Diseases

Some symptoms that newborns with congenital heart disease may experience are as follows:

  • Bluish fingers, toes, nails, or skin
  • Trouble breathing or breathlessness
  • Feeding difficulties
  • Low birth weight
  • Chest pain
  • Delayed growth

Sometimes the above-mentioned symptoms may be accompanied by various other symptoms as follows:

  • Dizziness
  • Abnormal heart rhythm
  • Fatigue
  • Swelling
  • Fainting
  • Difficulty in breathing

Read Also: What is a Cardiovascular Disease or a Heart Disease?

Causes of Congenital Heart Diseases

A congenital heart disease is generally caused due to an early developmental problem in the heart’s structure. These defects interfere with the functioning of the heart by hindering the normal blood flow affecting breathing.

Here are some of the reasons that can cause congenital heart diseases:

  • It has been observed that some heart defects may run in families.
  • Use of certain drugs during pregnancy can increase the risk of getting heart defects.
  • Consumption of alcohol and use of illicit drugs during pregnancy can also increase the chances of getting congenital heart disease.
  • There are great chances for a child to be born with certain heart defects if the mother has a viral infection during the first trimester of pregnancy.
  • Certain factors such as increased blood sugar levels and diabetes can affect childhood development.

Treatment of Congenital Heart Diseases

The treatment of congenital heart disease will depend on its type and severity. Some may have mild heart defects which generally heal with time and medications while certain severe life-threatening defects may require extensive treatment. Some of the treatment methods used are as follows:

  • Medications: Doctors may prescribe different medicines to help the heart work more efficiently. Some medicines can prevent clot formation and can control irregular heartbeat.
  • Implantable heart devices: Pacemakers and Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators (ICDs) are implantable devices that can be used to prevent complications associated with congenital heart defects. A pacemaker is used to regulate an abnormal heart rate, while an ICD can be used to correct life-threatening irregular heartbeats.
  • Catheter procedures: Catheterization methods are generally used by doctors to repair certain congenital heart defects without opening the heart and chest by inserting a thin tube into a vein in the leg and guiding it up to the heart.
  • Open heart surgery: Surgeons may also perform an open-heart surgery to close the holes in the heart, repair heart valves or widen the blood vessels.
  • Heart transplant: In rare cases, a healthy heart from a donor is transplanted when a congenital heart defect is too severe or complex to fix.

Read Also: Alternatives to Heart Bypass Surgery

Congenital Heart Defects in Adults

Diagnosis and treatment of congenital heart defects may begin after birth, during childhood or in adulthood. Sometimes diagnosis and treatment may be delayed as some defects do not cause any symptoms until the child becomes an adult. The screening and treatment in adults will also depend on the type and severity of the defects. In such cases, people may only need to be monitored closely while others may require medications and surgeries.

In some cases, the defects may appear in adulthood even if the defects may have been treated during childhood, which may worsen with time. Thus, it is always advised to see your doctor regularly for follow-up care as treatment in this case may not cure the condition but can help the person to continue an active and productive life.

Best Doctors for Treating Congenital Heart Defects

Dr. Yatin Arora is a Cardiothoracic & Vascular Surgery Consultant at Yashoda Hospital and Research Centre, Nehru Nagar, Ghaziabad. Dr. Arora holds an M.Ch. from AIIMS. With extensive experience, he has contributed to publications and provided teaching and surgical assistance.

Dr. Ankur Agrawal is a skilled Cardiothoracic & Vascular Surgeon at Yashoda Hospital and Research Centre in Nehru Nagar, Ghaziabad. Dr. Agrawal excels in adult & pediatric cardiac, thoracic, and vascular surgeries. He prioritizes optimal patient outcomes using advanced techniques.

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Yashoda Hospital

Yashoda Hospital is one of the best super specialty hospitals in Ghaziabad, Noida & Delhi NCR. Yashoda Hospital aims at providing the best healthcare services across the country and not just in Delhi NCR, Ghaziabad & Noida. Being a super speciality hospital, Yashoda Hospital has a number of dedicated specialities under one roof- gastroenterology, general surgery, obstetrics & gynaecology, cardiology, pulmonology & internal medicine, orthopedics, urology and many more.

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