Accessible Search Form           Advanced Search

  • PRINT PAGE  |  PRINT ENTIRE TOPIC  |  SHARE

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Congenital Heart Defects?

Many congenital heart defects cause few or no signs and symptoms. A doctor may not even detect signs of a heart defect during a physical exam.

Some heart defects do cause signs and symptoms. They depend on the number, type, and severity of the defects. Severe defects can cause signs and symptoms, usually in newborns. These signs and symptoms may include:

  • Rapid breathing
  • Cyanosis (a bluish tint to the skin, lips, and fingernails)
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Poor blood circulation

Congenital heart defects don't cause chest pain or other painful symptoms.

Heart defects can cause heart murmurs (extra or unusual sounds heard during a heartbeat). Doctors can hear heart murmurs using a stethoscope. However, not all murmurs are signs of congenital heart defects. Many healthy children have heart murmurs.

Normal growth and development depend on a normal workload for the heart and normal flow of oxygen-rich blood to all parts of the body. Babies who have congenital heart defects may have cyanosis and tire easily while feeding. As a result, they may not gain weight or grow as they should.

Older children who have congenital heart defects may get tired easily or short of breath during physical activity.

Many types of congenital heart defects cause the heart to work harder than it should. With severe defects, this can lead to heart failure. Heart failure is a condition in which the heart can't pump enough blood to meet the body's needs. Symptoms of heart failure include:

  • Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
  • Fatigue with physical activity
  • A buildup of blood and fluid in the lungs
  • Swelling in the ankles, feet, legs, abdomen, and veins in the neck
Rate This Content:

  
previous topic next topic

Featured Video


New pediatric imaging facility aims to improve treatment for congenital heart disease


Congenital Heart Defects Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are research studies that explore whether a medical strategy, treatment, or device is safe and effective for humans. To find clinical trials that are currently underway for Congenital Heart Defects, visit www.clinicaltrials.gov.

Children and Clinical Studies Logo

Visit Children and Clinical Studies to hear experts, parents, and children talk about their experiences with clinical research.


Congenital Heart Defects in the News

May 12, 2013
NIH Media Availability: Researchers take important step in unlocking what causes congenital heart disease
Findings from the first large-scale sequencing analysis of congenital heart disease bring us closer to understanding this most common type of birth defect.

View all Congenital Heart Defects Press Releases

 
July 01, 2011 Last Updated Icon

The NHLBI updates Health Topics articles on a biennial cycle based on a thorough review of research findings and new literature. The articles also are updated as needed if important new research is published. The date on each Health Topics article reflects when the content was originally posted or last revised.

Twitter iconTwitter         Facebook iconFacebook         YouTube iconYouTube        Google+ iconGoogle+