What is congenital heart disease? This is a birth defect that affects blood vessels, heart valves and heart walls with the level of severity varying according to the complexity of the condition. The disease could be anything from a simple, unnoticeable structural failing to consider, life-threatening membrane damage.
1. Varieties of congenital heart disease
The disease can generally be group into two categories i.e. acyanotic and cyanotic.
While both conditions are as a result of inefficient blood circulation due to a defective heart, the distinguishing factor comes in how each manifests. The latter leads to depreciated oxygen levels within the bloodstream which causes the infected to develop a bluish skin while that of the acyanotic kind, on the other hand, is almost unnoticeable by eye since it doesn’t interfere with oxygen concentrations in the blood.
The disease can also be broken down further into three more groups as follows depending on which part exactly is damaged or affected:
- Heart valve defects:
There are four valves within the heart which function as sort of a doorway to control the movement and direction of blood. When one of them is leaky or closed up, the disease is said to be valvular disease.
- Heart Septeal defects:
The heart is separated into two sides split into chambers and when some of the chambers do not fully develop, blood can accumulate in places where it’s not supposed to be causing increased blood pressure.
- Blood vessel defects:
These occur when veins and arteries are blocked or constricted by inflammation.
The signs of the disease manifest in newborns in a variety of ways with the general signs including but not limited to
- Bluish / Purple lips, toes, fingers, and skin
- Breathing difficulties
- Delayed growth
- Lower than normal birth weight
- Feeding difficulties
3. Diagnosis for congenital heart disease
Initial diagnosis involves a medical professional using a stethoscope to listen for the presence of a heart murmur which basically occurs when blood flows through the blood vessels so fast that it makes an audible, abnormal sound.
However, a physical examination might not sufficient to make a substantive diagnosis and the doctor may opt for either one of the following heart monitoring services to ascertain your conditions:
The echocardiogram is akin to the ultrasound imaging done when viewing fetus only that this time it targets the heart. There are various kinds of echocardiogram machines but basic models incorporate a transducer and a screen on which the structure of the heart- arteries, muscles, heart walls and the likes- are displayed on a monitor enabling the medical professional onsite to identify any heart problems.
An electrocardiogram (ECG) is a device that measures electrical activity during heart functioning and displays this information by means of those wavy lines you see on the cardiac ECG monitor. An experienced doctor can break down the depicted cycle on the screen and issue an elaborate diagnosis.
3) Chest X-ray and MRI scans
A chest x-ray is another imagining alternative a doctor could use for diagnosing the structure of the heart ,lungs and diapharm. An MRI also works the same way although radio waves are used instead.
The disease is usually diagnosed at an early age but there are numerous accounts where, due to one reason or another, the doctor might fail to detect the presence of heart defects and the underlying complications proceed to adulthood where they surface with serious signs
According to a recent study, the existing infection stats stands at 1 million apiece in both adults and children.
4. What are the causes of congenital heart disease?
This particular heart disease occurs at the embryonic development stage of an unborn baby and it can be narrowed down to chromosomal or genetic abnormalities (e.g. Down syndrome) that run in the family.
- Taking prescription drugs such as lithium, certain acne medications, Thalomid, ACE and statins during pregnancy has been shown to increase the chances of infection.
- Smoking or alcohol drinking also triggers the condition as these substances contain intoxicants that interfere with the proper development of the child.
- Expectant mothers affected by certain diseases such as German measles (rubella) and diabetes have also been evidenced to play a part.
5. Treatment Options for congenital heart disease
The treatment plan a doctor will recommend generally depends on the area of the heart that is affected, the level of damage inflicted on that area and whether or not the affected part plays a major role in the circulation of blood. In simple cases where the condition is not so extensive, the patient can go on to lead a healthy, unencumbered life without needing treatment.
Conversely, severe scenarios demand quick action and some of the treatments options available encompass:
This option is usually for mild to average scenarios with the dosage selection featuring a number of drug varieties such as blockers/inhibitors that counter high blood pressure thereby alleviating the stress on the heart and antiarrhythmics for dealing with irregular heartbeats. Blood clots in the heart chambers and accompanying vessels can be curtailed by medications known as anticoagulants/antiplatelets.
2) Implantable heart devices and pacemakers
This pair essentially works to correct irregular heart rhythms and rates by means of stimulating heart muscles by electrical impulses.
3) Heart surgery
Open-heart surgeries are very safe these days and afford one of the most effective ways to permanently fix heart problems. The procedure entails a surgeon widening constricted blood vessels, repairing damaged heart valves and/or closing any holes in the heart by physical means. Where arteries are irreversibly blocked, the surgeon can bypass existing channels and create new paths for blood flow.
4) Heart transplant
A heart transplant is usually the last resort when the patient’s situation is dire and can’t be rectified by any of the alternatives mentioned herein. The heart is usually obtained from a person who has cerebral death upon permission from the family.
A cardiologist is best placed to decide the best way forward for every case.
Sathya Kumar is the Founder & CEO of Cardiac Rhythm. Cardiac Rhythm’s biosensor is an unobtrusive, easy to use a device for the patient’s long-term Holter monitoring and real-time mobile cardiac telemetry monitoring. The portable biosensor remotely monitors the health of patients and provides physicians with deeper clinical-grade data insights.