ALERT: Learn more about our Visitor Policy and COVID-19 Resources.

by Alan R

Definition

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.

Heartbeat: Anatomy of the Heart
IMAGE
Copyright © 2002 Nucleus Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.

Causes

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:

Abnormal heart murmurs can be due to:

Risk Factors

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.

Symptoms

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

Diagnosis

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:

The heart's electrical activity may also be tested. This can be done with an ECG.

Treatment

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:

  • Changing some habits like quitting smoking, exercising more, or drinking less alcohol.
  • Medicine to treat the murmur's cause.
  • Surgery may be needed if what is causing the murmur is a severe problem. This could include repairing or replacing a heart valve.

    Prevention

    A healthy heart may reduce the risk of some abnormal heart murmurs. Steps may include:

    RESOURCES

    American Heart Association  http://www.heart.org 

    National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute  https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov 

    CANADIAN RESOURCES

    Canadian Cardiovascular Society  http://www.ccs.ca 

    The College of Family Physicians of Canada  http://www.cfpc.ca 

    References

    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.

    Revision Information

    • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcin Chwistek, MD
    • Review Date: 03/2022
    • Update Date: 05/16/2022