Murmurs sometimes sound like a whooshing or swishing noise. Murmurs may be harmless, also called innocent, or abnormal. Harmless murmurs may not cause symptoms and can happen when blood flows more rapidly than normal through the heart such as during exercise, pregnancy, or rapid growth in children. Abnormal murmurs may be a sign of a more serious heart condition, such as a congenital heart defect that is present since birth or heart valve disease. Depending on the heart problem causing the abnormal murmurs, the murmurs may be associated with other symptoms such as shortness of breath, dizziness or fainting, bluish skin, or a chronic cough.
If a heart murmur is detected, your doctor will listen to the loudness, location and timing of your murmur to find out whether it is harmless or a sign of a more serious condition. If your doctor thinks you may have a more serious condition, your doctor may refer you to a cardiologist, or a doctor who specializes in the heart. The cardiologist may have you do other tests such as an electrocardiogram (EKG) or echocardiogram to look for heart rhythm or structural problems and see how well your heart is working.
A heart murmur itself does not require treatment. If it is caused by a more serious heart condition, your doctor may recommend treatment for that heart condition. Treatment may include medicines, cardiac catheterization, or surgery. The outlook and treatment for abnormal heart murmurs depend on the type and severity of the heart condition that is causing the murmur.
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The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) leads or sponsors many studies aimed at preventing, diagnosing, and treating heart, lung, blood, and sleep disorders.