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What Are Heart Murmurs?

A stethoscope can be used to detect a heart murmur.
A heart murmur may be diagnosed during a routine exam.
Holes in the heart may cause a heart murmur.
An innocent heart murmur is also known as a functional heart murmur.
Innocent murmurs usually disappear as the child ages.
Heart murmurs are common in people with Down syndrome.
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  • Originally Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Revised By: A. Joseph
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 11 September 2014
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Heart murmurs are additional sounds that a doctor might hear when listening to the beat of a heart with a stethoscope. They are sometimes called extra beats and are caused by the turbulent flow of blood. Murmurs often include a rushing or whooshing sound, although other sounds can indicate a specific cause. They can be harmless, or innocent, or they might indicate a medical problem. An innocent heart murmur is often referred to as a functional heart murmur.

Grading Scale

A scale of 1 to 6 is used to grade heart murmurs based on their sound. The quietest murmurs receive a grade 1. The loudest murmurs are rated as grade 6. It is not unusual for even innocent murmurs to be somewhat loud and receive a grade of 3 to 6.

Innocent Murmurs

Frequently, heart murmurs that are heard in children are completely innocent. They might be heard a few days after birth and often are the result of the ductus — a small opening between the left and right arteries above the heart — remaining open. A murmur that is caused by an open ductus usually disappears within a few weeks. In babies who were born prematurely, the ductus might remain open and require closure at a later date. Unless the ductus is causing significant problems for the newborn, closure usually is not attempted for six months to a year.

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Heart murmurs can arise within the first few days of life from the changes in circulation. When a child is born, his or her body begins to circulate blood differently so that more blood goes to certain parts of the body, such as the lungs, which were not as important before birth. These changes in circulation might cause an initial murmur that disappears shortly after birth.

Tiny differences in heart formation also might result in murmurs. These can be heard in children from birth or when children are about 2 years old. Usually, these murmurs are innocent and tend to disappear within a few years.

In adults, heart murmurs also can be innocent. People who suffer from anxiety might sometimes have additional beats called pre-atrial contractions or pre-ventricular contractions. These murmurs are quite normal and do not represent danger to the heart.

Congenital Heart Defects

Although most heart murmurs are innocent, some can indicate serious illness or problems with the heart. Children who have congenital heart defects will often have heart murmurs. Usually, these murmurs are accompanied by symptoms such as poor growth, a blue tinge to the skin, failure to thrive, an inability to eat or breathing difficulties. These types of murmurs are causes for concern, and a pediatric cardiologist can diagnose specific heart defects and determine the appropriate treatment.

Mitral Valve Prolapse

Heart murmurs that are present in teenagers and young adults and have a honking or clicking sound might indicate a defect called mitral valve prolapse. The symptoms of this defect usually are not present when a child is young. Mitral valve prolapse, a defect of the valve between the left atrium and left ventricle, usually requires treatment or replacement of the valve. The honking or clicking sound often can be heard without a stethoscope and should immediately be brought to the attention of a healthcare professional.

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anon926044
Post 28

I'm 36 years old. I have had murmurs in the past but they weren't really bad, but in these past couple months I have had these really huge murmurs - it feels like my heart latterly flutters in my chest and it feels like it's moving in the same spot, it's really hard to describe. It takes my breath away when it happens and usually lasts about 5 or more seconds when it flutters. I tried talking to my doctor and he really didn't say much. I mean it doesn't happen all the time and comes out of nowhere; it may happen once a month or once a couple months. I don't know what to do. Should I seek the advice from a different doctor? This freaks me out. I have high blood pressure and high cholesterol which I'm on tons of meds for that, in large doses too. I'm scared. Any ideas ?

anon296023
Post 27

I was born with a heart murmur, but doctors told my mom it would close up as I got older.

Three years ago when I was pregnant, they told me I still had it and it never healed. A year after gave birth to my son, I started having palpitations and dizzy spells. I went to the hospital and they said I have anxiety and that my heart was fine. I went to a heart doctor and he told me I had acute heart murmurs, which were the reason for my anxiety, but that I can live with it for the rest of my life, living normally with no problems. He also ran tests to determine if I needed surgery and I came out just fine, thank God.

Now here’s the thing. I’m on and off with my anxiety pills because I have two kids, one who’s 11 and the other one 3, and I can’t afford to be feeling like I’m in lala land. I’m 33 years old and I want to feel amazing for my babies and I feel like I’m going on 80 with the center of my back always having pain.

I’ve been having these annoying palpitations a lot, and feeling these weird pains and aches that come with anxiety and I’m extremely scared ! For the past two days, my heart has been skipping like never before and I’m scared. I go to bed and I can’t sleep for fear I won’t get up. I thought it would just be happening at night, but I find myself waking up with palpitations and going to sleep with it. Why? I don’t understand. I’m scared for my life! Why is this happening?

I was fine knowing I have a heart that will skip beats on and off once in a while, due to anxiety that my heart murmur caused, but not the way it’s been happening for the past two days. I’m scared and I don’t know what to do what to think and unfortunately I’m aware all this is just making my anxiety worse. Please, if anyone has been feeling and going through the same thing, give me some peace of mind, or just be blunt!

anon281439
Post 26

Im 25 years old and for the past few months I have had episodes where my heart feels like its not beating. One night while laying in bed with my son, it felt like my breath just went away. I jumped up in a panic and had an anxiety attack and I have had attacks ever since.

Today I had a visit with my family doctor and he told me I had a heart murmur and they were going to monitor it to make sure it is in fact a heart murmur and just not an irregular heart beat.

They said it could be from stress or working out too much or moving around too much doing too many activities. All I know is I'm very scared.

anon257697
Post 25

I'm freaking out. My sister is only 13 and just a few days ago she couldn't breathe. She told me it felt like her heart stopped. she says her heart feels like it skips a beat and she's just telling the family now. I'm scared for her. Should the family be worried? She had a heart murmur when she was little, but can she have one again now?

anon209142
Post 24

I have MVP. However, I have been exhausted lately. I went to stand up today and felt like my heart stopped. I pounded on my chest, got real dizzy and could feel my heartbeat in my head and the whooshing of blood for a bit. It was scary and I had to sit down.

anon182055
Post 23

I'm 14 years old and I wen to the hospital after having stomach pains. They took some blood tests and had a listen to my heart. It seemed like they were concentrating a lot and suddenly the doctor says I have a heart murmur. He gives my mum a card and says make an appointment whenever she can. My mum doesn't have the money and my heart murmur is getting louder and more noticeable. Is it a threat to me?

anon179143
Post 22

i am 16 and for about a year now my heart has been skipping beats and fluttering. it feels almost as if it stops completely. recently it has been happening a lot more, perhaps every ten minutes. i am confused what it is because i have already been to the doctors and they ran some tests and said it is nothing.

my dad has atrial fibrillation so i don't know if it is something to do with that or something completely different. can anyone give me any advice because i'm seriously worried.

anon135145
Post 21

anon78926, I just wanted to clarify.

An echocardiogram is different from an EKG. An echo is an ultrasound that looks at the size/shape of your heart and its ability to pump blood.

An EKG (or ECG)looks at your heart's rhythm by interpreting electrical charges through electrodes on the skin.

And no worries monty 23, they are both easy and painless.

anon125199
Post 20

I am 14 and occasionally i will be doing something and out of nowhere, I suddenly can't breathe and it feels like something stabbed me in the chest. I'm not sure but my mom says it's a heart murmur. Is it genetic? Are these symptoms?

anon121348
Post 19

I'm 15 years old and i went to the doctor recently because the school nurse said my heart rate was too high. the doctor said i have a murmur and it didn't change with position (which is bad?) so i have to see a cardiologist. my mom has a mitral valve prolapse so I'm thinking maybe that's what it is. i hope its nothing too serious. good luck to everyone!

anon120467
Post 18

I'm 21 and went to the doctor for a check up and he told me i have a murmur but it's nothing to worry about. I just have to take antibiotics when i have the flu or am sick as i won't get over illnesses quickly.

I'm wanting to know do murmurs heal themselves, and what life style must i have? Can i eat like i normally do, and what about exercise? what guidelines can you give?

anon116648
Post 17

i am 26 and over the past six months or so i have been having weird episodes with my heart. it started off with palpitations, a fluttering and a peculiar whooshing, which progressed to bad chest pains which would go right through to the middle of my back, tightness in my chest to the point it would be hard to breathe at times.

i came over all funny like I was going to pass out. i get a weakness down my left side of my body and my hands and my feet keep turning purple. i know it's not my circulation because my hands and feel are not cold when this happens. sometimes its just one of my feet that go purple, mainly my left one. there are days my heart is pounding so hard you can see it through my chest and hear it in my ears. i get pins and needles in my face.

There are times i feel like my heart stops and starts again. which scares me to the point i cry. some days i feel like I'm going to just drop down dead. i was sent by my doctor to see a cardiologist who i saw two weeks ago, and was told i had a heart murmur.

he is sending me for an echo which I'm having in a couple of weeks. he also said i had an ectopic heart beat. he wasn't sure about my hands and feet going purple but was going to run some more tests. if anyone else also suffers with this can you please let me know. Good luck to you all with your up coming echo's and good health to all who have already come through so much. take care.

anon83217
Post 16

I'm 24 years old and have just been told i have a heart murmur. the doctor asked did i want to follow it up i said no. was this a silly decision?

anon82071
Post 15

I'm 15 and yesterday I was diagnosed with a heart murmur. The doctor already made an appointment for me with a cardiologist. They said that there's a one-third chance that it's serious and I'm totally freaking out. I'm really scared! Can someone help me please?

anon78926
Post 14

A heart murmur is no biggie. it is a whooshing sound through a stethoscope. It can mean problems with a valve functioning properly. In adults, it is usually stress - which, by the by, sounds like your problem anon43921.

I don't know anything, except that I have more experience with doctors than I'm real crazy about, but 43921, it sounds like panic attacks - they suck. If you are on anti-depressants, that could be the problem. In my opinion, they're giving them out in too high doses. There is more to your symptomology than the murmur. The murmur isn't the problem, something else is. Job, spouse, anti-depressant or whatever.

It's an echocardiogram - an EKG. It measures the reflection of your heartbeats to get the "skinny" on your valves and other hardware in/out of the heart. No biggie.

It is the job of a doctor to test and assume the worst for your protection. When you have the testing done and he/she sees the results, you will find out that you have developed a murmur because you're totally stressed over money, job, etc. Chill!

Talitha, without having seen what your doctor saw, nobody can say. What I can tell you is that women your age develop all kinds of stuff that a lot of times they grow out of.

Folks, relax until somebody knows something. After that, just proceed with the treatment plan. If you didn't ask the questions you're asking now, why not? If you did and there weren't any answers, it's because they don't know anything yet.

It's like asking what a pile of dough is going to taste like after it's baked.

anon77133
Post 13

When i was 17, I had two of my heart murmurs closed up and on that was so small it couldn't be closed. since the op docs still detect a murmur when they listen to my heart. now I'm 20 and my eggs are coming up as slightly irregular. I've been referred to a cardiologist. if there is a problem i now the doctor will sort me out. I'm not worried, it could be worse.

anon76042
Post 12

I've been a cancer recovery patient for two years

I'm 74 years old and yesterday I went for my Pet scan report and was told I'm still cancer free, but, I have a heart murmur. Do you think this is serious?

anon74644
Post 11

i am 32. i went to the doctor yesterday. i was getting a clearance for an elective surgery and found out that i have a heart murmur. the doctor said that it's normal but i am very worried. i am going to go to a cardiologist and get a second opinion. the only thing to do is trust god, don't worry and pray.

anon71106
Post 10

I am a 71 year old woman who had a stroke in 2002 and have had carotid (sp?) surgery on my left artery.

I have been on medication since the stroke but I was diagnosed with a heart murmur yesterday during a colonoscopy consultation. What does this mean for me and my health?

anon65005
Post 9

I'm 20 years old and recently went to the doctor with fluttering in my heart. i was born with a hole in my heart but my doctor told me it was grew over as a child but now they're telling me it's back and i have to see a cardiologist in four months. I am really scared and just wondering if anyone else experienced and fluttering in their heart?

anon63287
Post 8

anon43921, I'm not a doctor and not an expert but I have had similar symptoms all because of tension. Whatever you are going through, feeling of choking throat, shortness of breath, pain in the back, confusion, it all relates to the fact that you have a continuous thought that you have a serious illness and you are dying.

anon53975
Post 7

I have just been advised by my doctor during a regular check up that I have a heart murmur. I've read the signs of heart problems.

I do experience dizziness which I never experienced before. I also have an ache in the middle of my back that came on suddenly about five years ago. Could this be a sign of heart problems?

I understand females have different symptoms.

anon52742
Post 6

I have had a heart murmur for over 30 years. I'm not on medication so i presume its nothing to worry about. I do lots of exercise as well so relax and just ask the doctor to explain everything to you.

anon43921
Post 5

hi there. i'm 24 years old and have been diagnosed with a heart murmur. sometimes i feel like there is more to it. the attacks that i get are unbearable sometimes. they consist of major head pressure build up, dizziness, confusion, and major exhaustion. they mainly occur during my sleep but it wakes me up all the time, but during the day i feel it in my throat then my head. is this just a murmur? i'm quite scared as most of the time i think that i'm dying, however i tell myself im not. i'm very scared and think about it all the time. it's ruining my life!

anon32060
Post 4

monty23,

Echocardiograms are no biggie. It's just an ultrasound of your heart to make sure that your heart is functioning properly. That's what my doctor told me. Good luck to you!

anon7150
Post 3

Hello, i'm 17 and recently had a check up at the docs, were i had an ecg and bloods taken for a suspected heart problem. I know have an appointment at a cardio hospital because something came up on the ecg, but my bloods are normal. The doctors refuse to tell me anything. What does this mean and what are the possibilities? Thank you, Talitha

monty23
Post 2

I went in for a check up yesterday and the doctor told me I had a heart murmur. I'm 37 years old and I've never had problems before. I'm going to have a echocardio graph? and I'm really scared!!

florence0285
Post 1

after a murmur is fixed when you are a child, can it still by chance have an affect when you are an adult? Also, after it is taken care of as a child, can it still cause problems down the line or come back?

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