A heart murmur is a sound made by turbulent blood flow in the heart. Some heart murmurs may be harmless. Others may be a sign of a heart problem.
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Harmless murmurs are caused by the normal flow of blood. The murmur may come and go over time. Increased blood flow can increase the murmur sound. The murmur may be louder with:
- Extreme anxiety
Abnormal heart murmurs can be due to:
- Structural problems with the heart valves. These are the most common issues. They may have been present from birth or happened later in life. Examples include:
- Septal defects, or a hole in the heart's inside wall
- Patent ductus-arteriosus, an abnormal connection between major blood vessels near the heart
- Other issues present from birth such as:
- Changes to the heart because of heart attack, heart failure, or long-standing high blood pressure
- Endocarditis, an infection of the inner lining of heart valves and chambers
- Rheumatic fever,which can cause inflammation and heart valve damage. This can happen if strep throat is not treated properly.
- Cardiac myxoma, a benign soft tumor within the heart. This is rare.
Normal heart murmurs are more common in children 3 to 7 years old. Pregnant women are also at increased risk.
The risk for abnormal heart murmurs increases with any of the conditions listed above.
Harmless heart murmurs usually do not cause symptoms. A person with an abnormal heart murmur may have:
- Rapid breathing or trouble breathing
- Blue lips
- Lightheadedness and/or fainting
- Chest pain
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Exercise intolerance
- Problems gaining weight (in kids)
- Belly swelling
- Enlarged neck veins
Most heart murmurs are found during a routine exam. The murmur can be heard with a stethoscope. More tests will be done for murmurs that are causing problems. Blood tests may be done to rule out other problems. Images may be taken of the heart. This can be done with:
- Chest x-ray
- Cardiac catheterization
- Echocardiogram—to look at the size, shape, and motion of the heart
The heart's electrical activity may also be tested. This can be done with an ECG.
Harmless heart murmurs do not need treatment.
Treatment for abnormal heart murmurs will be based on the cause. Treating the cause may decrease or stop the murmur. The doctor may advise:
Surgery may be needed if what is causing the murmur is a severe problem. This could include repairing or replacing a heart valve.
A healthy heart may reduce the risk of some abnormal heart murmurs. Steps may include:
- Eat a healthful diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables.
- Get regular exercise.
- If you smoke, talk to the doctor about ways to quit.
- Follow a treatment plan if you have high blood pressure or diabetes.
American Heart Association http://www.heart.org
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov
Canadian Cardiovascular Society http://www.ccs.ca
The College of Family Physicians of Canada http://www.cfpc.ca
Heart murmurs. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/heart-murmurs. Accessed May 16, 2022.
Heart murmurs. American Academy of Family Physician's Family Doctor website. Available at: https://familydoctor.org/condition/heart-murmurs. Accessed May 16, 2022.
Heart murmur in children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/heart-murmur-in-children. Accessed May 16, 2022.
Heart murmurs and your child. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/murmurs.html. Accessed May 13, 2022.
Treatment options. Temple Health website. Available at: https://www.templehealth.org/services/conditions/heart-murmurs/treatment-options. Accessed May 16, 2022.
- Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcin Chwistek, MD
- Review Date: 03/2022
- Update Date: 05/16/2022