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Take heart murmurs seriously

Mayo Clinic News Network, Mayo Clinic News Network on

Published in Health & Fitness

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. — Detecting a heart murmur on your own can be tricky. A murmur is an extra heart sound that can be heard by a stethoscope.

Sometimes, a murmur sounds like a humming sound, which can be faint or loud. It might be temporary or persistent. Heart murmurs may be present at birth or develop later in life during pregnancy, phases of rapid growth like adolescence, or from a fever or anemia.

"The murmur may disappear as quickly as it comes if it has a temporary cause," says Michel Barsoum, M.B., Ch.B., a cardiologist and vascular medicine specialist at Mayo Clinic Health System in Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire and Rice Lake, Wisconsin. "However, a murmur also could be persistent and loud, easily heard, and sound like a churning mill wheel or cooing seagull. This might indicate a serious heart problem."

What causes a heart murmur?

Several factors can cause a murmur. It could be a heart valve problem or a hole in the heart.

The valves in your heart act as doors between the chambers, or rooms, of the heart. In the case of a murmur, a valve may be tight or leaky. When heart valves are narrow, this is called stenosis. A murmur also could be from a leaky valve, called regurgitation.

 

A murmur also may occur from high blood flow in people with a fever or with low red blood cells, called anemia.

Some people have a family history of heart murmur and heart disease. Some are born with a congenital condition causing a murmur. Others have had a recent severe infection or illness that could damage a heart valve and need immediate medical attention.

Innocent or harmless heart murmurs don't typically cause symptoms, and most heart murmurs aren't serious.

Symptoms of a serious or worrisome heart murmur depend on the cause and require evaluation by a healthcare professional.

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