Symptoms of heart disease

anthurium-flowerWhat are the important symptoms of heart disease?

Symptoms depend on the type of heart disease. Sometimes there could even be silent heart disease without any symptoms. Many of the birth defects of the heart remain asymptomatic for long periods. Some become symptomatic during another illness or a major stressful event. Occasionally the very first manifestation of a silent underlying heart disease is sudden death. Apart from these two extremes, most significant heart diseases have some symptom or other though there may be a lot of variation between individuals. The severity of symptoms may not correlate with the severity of heart disease in some cases.

Important symptom of heart disease which every one is familiar with is the severe chest pain of a heart attack. As the name implies, it often occurs out of the blue and is quite disabling. A crushing feeling may be felt instead of chest pain, and it may spread to the arms or jaw. It may be associated with profuse sweating or sometimes breathlessness and dizziness. Some even feel an impending doom.

Classical symptom of reduced blood supply to the heart is chest pain brought on by exertion and relieved by rest (effort angina). This indicates gradually increasing blockage of coronary arteries which supply oxygenated blood to the heart. This pain may also spread to the jaw, neck or the arms. Occasionally pain may be felt in the upper part of the stomach. Rarely jaw pain or pain in the wrist occurs without chest pain.

Breathlessness brought on by exertion and relieved by rest is another important symptom of heart disease, though it can be due to lung disease or even reduced amount of hemoglobin in the blood (anemia). Sudden breathlessness during sleep and breathlessness which gets worse on lying down are also important symptoms of some forms of heart disease.

Palpitation or undue awareness of one’s heart beats is another important symptom of heart disease, though it may occur with anxiety and undue exertion as well. Palpitation can be fast, slow, regular or irregular, depending on the abnormality in the heart rhythm.

Some forms of heart disease, especially birth defects of the heart, produce a bluish discoloration of the skin and lips (cyanosis). This is due to reduced content of oxygen in circulating blood. Spitting out blood can also be a symptom of heart disease, though it is more often a symptom of lung disease.

Prolonged fever can occur with infections of the heart valve. Joint pain and swelling can occur in infections of the heart valves as well as in rheumatic fever, which can affect the heart valves.

Stroke or sudden weakness of one part of the body can be an indirect symptom of heart disease. Atrial fibrillation, an abnormal rhythm of the upper chambers of the heart, can cause clots to form in the heart. These clots can move out of the heart and block a blood vessel in the brain causing stroke. Similar clots can form in diseases of heart valves, where there is obstruction to blood flow.

Congenital heart disease – Birth defects of the heart

casuarinaWhat is congenital heart disease?

Congenital heart disease is heart disease present from birth. But it need not manifest at birth and may even be detected decades later as some are asymptomatic. Severe forms of congenital heart disease may start manifesting soon after birth and may sometimes be fatal in early life.

What are the common manifestations of congenital heart disease?

Congenital heart disease can manifest with breathlessness, bluish discoloration (blue baby), head sweating, failure to grow well (failure to thrive) or undue movements or prominence of the chest. Very often there are no symptoms and congenital heart disease is detected as a cardiac murmur on routine pediatric checkup.

What are the common congenital heart diseases?

Congenital heart disease can be broadly divided into those with bluish discoloration (cyanosis – cyanotic congenital heart disease) and those without bluish discoloration (acyanotic congenital heart disease). Important ones without bluish discoloration are the defects in the wall between the lower or upper chambers. Defect in the wall between upper chambers is called atrial septal defect and the defect in the wall between lower chambers is called ventricular septal defect. Another common acyanotic congenital heart disease is patent ductus arteriosus, in which there is persistence of connection between the pulmonary artery and the aorta. Important cyanotic congenital heart diseases are tetralogy of Fallot (TOF) and transposition of great arteries. In the former there is combination of four defects and there is mixing of oxygenated and deoxygenated blood in the ventricles. In the latter, aorta arises from the right ventricle and pulmonary artery from left ventricle, causing admixture of oxygenated and deoxygenated blood.