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Serious Heart Problems You Might Not Know You Have

Updated on May 17, 2014

Day in and day out people aren’t aware of what is going on inside of them. And how could we, if we feel nothing is wrong? Plenty of people walk around unaware of the ticking time bombs they may be carrying within. Thankfully, with today’s knowledge and testing more and more problems inside and related to the heart are being caught and treated before serious complications arise. Maybe even preventing unexplained sudden deaths. Do you know what you may be carrying? Here’s a list of defects in the heart most aren’t aware of.

Septal Defects

Septal Defects are holes in the septum of the heart. The types of defects can include Patent Foramen Ovale, Atrial Septal Defects and Ventricular Septal Defects. In fetal stages of heart growth it is common for the heart to have what is called a PFO. Its purpose is to allow blood flow carrying oxygen to circulate throughout the body until the lungs are able to function. When a child is born, it normally closes up by the time the child is 2 years old. In some cases the PFO does not close. About 1 of 4 adults still walk around with a PFO and in most cases have no symptoms from it. Or some can experience strokes because of it. In older adults, if a clot is formed in the body and circulates through the heart it can cross over through the PFO to the other side of the heart lodging itself in the brain causing a stroke or lodging in the lungs and causing breathing complications and in massive cases, death.

Atrial and Ventricular Septal Defects are a malformation of the septum during the development of the fetus. These types of holes in the heart are different then a common PFO. These types of defects can be more life threatening. It can cause mild to severe loss of breath, fatigue and weakness. Depending on their severity, either septal defect may need to be fixed with surgery. In most surgeries this involves placing a closure device in the heart over the septal defect. Going untreated, the two can become worse giving way to health decline as well. Long term side effects can be an enlarged heart, high pressure to the arteries of the lungs and throwing the heart out of rhythm.

Heart Valve Issues

There are 4 heart valves in the heart that are made up of valve leaflets. The main functions of heart valves are to let the blood flow properly in and out of the heart. When there are malfunctions with the leaflets of the heart valves problems can occur. If too little blood flows there is a lack of oxygenated blood giving oxygen to the body. If there is too much blood the pressures in the heart can weaken the heart’s muscle. In some hearts, valve complications can be from valves not forming properly, valves may be rigid and immobile or missing leaflets. An example of a problematic valve can be with the aortic valve. This valve is the main valve in the heart. It’s job is to carry blood through its artery throughout the body. If this valve’s leaflets are causing problems such as being underdeveloped or immobile, an abdominal aortic aneurysm (a bulging of the aorta’s artery wall) can occur. If this aneurysm increases in size and possibly bursts, this can mean instant death for someone. So heart valves, though small in stature they hold a very serious task within the heart along with everything thing else. If there are defects to the valves they may need repairing if the damage isn't too great or replacing with either mechanical ones or tissue valves taken from a pig or cow.

Endocarditis

Endocarditis, also known as an infection in the heart or a vegetation, can be due to a few things within the body. However, since we are on the topic of heart defects we will discuss that. When one is born with abnormal valves and has infected blood due to an infection coming from another source, they are more susceptible to getting an infection on their valve. A normal heart valve is smooth in texture and allows blood to flow freely and flawlessly around it. But when a valve is abnormal and rough it gives the infection places for it to grab hold of and hold on to. If endocarditis is not gotten a hold of, it can also move onto the other organs in the body such as the lungs, kidneys and spleen. Antibiotics can be used to get rid of endocarditis with most cases. In the case of it being due to a heart defect, the valves of the heart may need to be replaced with a mechanical or tissue valve if infection has eroded the valves too much. Valves control the flow of blood in and out of the heart. Eroded valves can allow too much uncontrolled blood to flow leading to a whole other set of problems.

Cardiomyopathy

This term refers to the enlarging of a heart. The 4 types of congenital cardiomyopathies are dilated, restrictive and hypertrophic. Dilated cardiomyopathy is a weakness in the heart’s walls. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is an overly thickness of the heart’s walls. Restrictive cardiomyopathy effects the ability of the heart’s wall to expand in order to properly pump blood throughout the heart and body. In lots of cases these heart problems are passed down genetically. If untreated, these all can present problems as the child gets older. Symptoms of the child can be upper respiratory problems, they may be diagnosed with having repeated pneumonia, congestive heart failure can form or heart rhythms can be out of wack, plus a whole host of other symptoms that have to be narrowed down in order to diagnose them as a complications of cardiomyopathy. Treatment for cardiomyopathies can be medicinal treatment or surgeries to ease the problem. In some cases, heart transplants may be necessary if the problems are too great.

Hypoplasia

This is an underdevelopment of the right and left ventricle in the heart. The heart contains two ventricles; one on either side of the heart. They are both used to pump blood efficiently within the heart. This defect naturally causes a problem in the body by not allowing the proper amount of oxygenated blood to circulate throughout. This in turn creates a whole other set of problems ranging from breathing difficulty to malfunctioning of the organs within the system. In cases such as this, the heart compensates this malformation by providing a large enough hole (patent ductus arteriosis) to balance things out. However, it is still a condition that requires a surgery to fix the problem as soon as possible as the patent ductus arteriosis will close, much like the PFO, after the child is born.

This is just a list of a few common complications that can occur in the heart. Heart defects can vary and be quite life threatening especially if one doesn’t know that it exists inside of them. Some of these discussed above will have been caught before a child reaches into their teens due to the symptoms they may bring on. But it's still so very important when babies are born to have them checked out. Having their hearts listened to by their physician can at times be a life saver for them. In most of these cases the test to perform would be an Echocardiogram. This test is an ultrasound that shows exactly what’s going on inside of the heart in real time. It can diagnose if something is wrong with the infant’s valves, walls and blood flow. Many adults of today still walk around not knowing what is being carried within them because as a child some of the tests used to detect heart defects weren’t developed yet. The reason for them to get tested is even more crucial. That fatigue they feel, or shortness of breath that they ignore could be signs of something more. Something that they have carried around and has probably worsened since childbirth.

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    • NiaG profile imageAUTHOR

      NiaG 

      5 years ago from Louisville, KY

      Thanks so much Chitrangada! It's a topic I think lots of people should pay attention to. Thanks for stopping by!

    • NiaG profile imageAUTHOR

      NiaG 

      5 years ago from Louisville, KY

      Thank you thumbi7! Hope it helps someone.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 

      5 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Nice, useful and informative hub!

      Thanks for sharing!

    • thumbi7 profile image

      JR Krishna 

      5 years ago from India

      Informative hub.

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