Congenital means some sort of health condition is present at birth. This congenital condition may or may not be hereditary or due to environmental influences. And congenital heart defects are the most common type of major birth defects.
Congenital heart disease is a general term used to describe various abnormalities involving the heart. Heart defects emerge during the early weeks of pregnancy because that’s when the heart is formed.
Congenital heart defects can pertain to:
- heart valves
- heart arteries & veins
- interior walls of the heart ~ holes in heart
A congenital heart defect affects the way blood flows through your heart.
Some common congenital heart diseases are:
- septal defects
- aortic stenosis
- overriding aorta
- tricuspid atresia
- tetralogy of fallot
- pulmonary atresia
- truncus arteriosus
- pulmonic stenosis
- Ebstein’s anomaly
- mital valve prolapse
- hypoplastic left heart
- coarctation of the aorta
- patent ductus arteriosus
- endocardial cushion defect
- total anomalous pulmonary venous return
- transposition of the great vessels (arteries)
For most congenital heart diseases no known cause is identified.
The majority of congenital heart defects occur as an isolated health condition and are not caused by other circumstances. However, some factors may contribute or play a role in some congenital heart defects, like:
- chronic diseases in mother ~ diabetes
- alcohol, cocaine use during pregnancy
- certain industrial chemicals ~ solvents
- infections during pregnancy ~ rubella, other viral infections (influenza)
- drugs ~ acne medication isotretinoin, thalidomide for rare skin conditions (multiple myeloma, leprosy), certain anti-seizure medications
- various genetic, chromosomal syndromes ~ Down syndrome, trisomy 13, Turner syndrome, Marfan syndrome, Noonan syndrome, DiGeorge syndrome
These are not a proven cause for congenital heart disease, just some association with or risk factors for them.
Symptoms of congenital heart disease depend on the specific health condition you have. In some cases, it may not cause any symptoms for many years, if ever. On the other hand, if the defect is severe, it may cause some of these various symptoms:
Congenital heart defects don’t typically cause chest pain or other pain inducing symptoms. Yet, they may cause a heart murmur. But not all murmurs present at birth are caused by a congenital heart disease.
Because some types of congenital heart defects can cause your heart to work harder, this can lead to heart failure. And a severe heart defect may put you at slight increased risk for infective endocarditis.
Treatment for your congenital heart disease may consist of medication, catheter procedures or surgery. Yet, not all congenital heart defects need treatment. And because of the advances in medical treatment, your chance of survival is much greater if your heart health condition does need to be treated.