What is a Heart Murmur?

Heart murmurs are abnormal sounds during your heartbeat cycle — such as whooshing or swishing — made by turbulent blood in or near your heart. These sounds can be heard with a stethoscope. A normal heartbeat makes two sounds like “lubb-dupp” (sometimes described as “lub-DUP”), which are the sounds of your heart valves closing.

Heart murmurs can be present at birth (congenital) or develop later in life. A heart murmur isn’t a disease — but murmurs may indicate an underlying heart problem.
Most heart murmurs are harmless (innocent) and don’t need treatment.

Some heart murmurs may require follow-up tests to be sure the murmur isn’t caused by a serious underlying heart condition. Treatment, if needed, is directed at the cause of your heart murmurs.

There are two types are heart murmurs: innocent murmurs and abnormal murmurs. A person with an innocent murmur has a normal heart. Innocent murmurs are caused by rapid blood flow through the heart such as is found in someone with fever, anemia, or thyroid problems

An abnormal heart murmur is more serious and is caused by structural abnormalities in the heart, like a perforation between chambers of the heart, tightening or loosening of the valves that prevent blood from going backwards through the heart, or an infection of the heart valves.

Further testing is often needed to discern whether a murmur is innocent or abnormal, and if abnormal the precise cause. Echocardiography is the usual test of choice for this purpose. It uses ultrasound to deliver a three-dimensional picture of the heart as it is beating.

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