Congenital Heart Disease (CHD), also known as Congenital Heart Defect is a common type of birth defect that affects the functioning of the heart.
CHD affects the structure of a baby’s heart and impairs its functioning. The defect in the heart is usually seen in the heart walls, heart valves, and blood vessels.
These abnormalities in the structure of the heart can vary from treatable issues like a hole in the heart to a much severe one like missing a part in the heart.
This eventually affects how the blood flows into the heart and the rest of the body. Babies born with a critical form of CHD, also known as Critical Congenital Heart Disease will need surgery or other corrective procedure in the first year of their life.
Types of Congenital Heart Disease
There are many types of Congenital Heart Diseases, however, they can be categorized into 3 main ones.
- Heart Wall Defect: In this defect, the heart walls do not form properly and this results in improper blood buildup and high blood pressure.
- Heart Valve Defect: If there is a block or leak in the heart valve, it interferes with the blood flow and the heart’s ability to pump.
- Blood Vessel Defect: In this, the arteries and veins that carry blood do not function properly, eventually causing many health disorders.
Signs and symptoms of Congenital Heart Disease
In most cases, a CHD is detected during pregnancy itself, through ultrasound. The doctor will determine that if there is an abnormal heartbeat. This may be followed by an X-ray, MRI scan, or an echocardiogram to confirm it.
In other cases, a CHD might not be detected or developed during pregnancy and may only be found after birth in the first few years. Some of the symptoms are:
- Bluish nails or lips
- Troubled breathing
- Chest pain
- Delayed growth
- Trouble feeding
- Low birth weight
While researchers are not entirely sure what exactly causes Congenital Heart Disease, it is believed that it is inherited.
Some other possible causes include:
- Prescription drugs during pregnancy
- Alcohol or drugs during pregnancy
- Mother with viral infection during pregnancy
While both a father and mother can pass some form of Congenital Heart Disease to their baby, it is recommended to et a genetic screening or counseling to understand the risk of passing it if you are planning to have a baby
Treatment for Congenital Heart Disease
Treatment for Congenital Heart Disease depends on the severity of the cases. While mild cases can be treated with medication, more severe ones require other procedures which include surgery.
Some of the treatments are:
Medication: As mentioned above medication is helpful for mild cases. It is used to improve the functioning of the heart or to prevent the blood from clotting. It can also be used to control an irregular heartbeat.
Catheter procedure: It is a non-surgical procedure where the doctor inserts a catheter through a vein in the leg and guiding it all the way to the part of the heart where the defect is. Through this catheter, small tools will be sent to repair the defect.
Implantable Heart Device: By using a few devices the Congenital Heart Disease/Defect can be prevented. A few such devices include pacemakers to regulate abnormal heartbeat and Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators to correct life-threatening issues.
Surgery: In cases where a catheter cannot solve the defect, an open-heart surgery might be recommended by the doctor. The surgery is done to either repair a hole, widen the blood vessels, or repairing heart valves.
Heart Transplant: In extremely complicated cases of Congenital Heart Disease, the child’s heart needs to be replaced with a healthy heart.
Can Congenital Heart Disease be found in adults?
As mentioned above, a CHD may also be formed in the first few years after birth. However, some defects do not show up until the child becomes an adult. In this case, the signs to detect CHD are:
- Reduced ability to perform physical tasks
- Chest Pain
The treatment, in this case, is also dependant on the severity. This involves either medication or surgery. In few cases simply monitoring regularly will do. CHD in adults may also be caused due to the defects that were treated during childhood.
Irrespective of the defect, It is important to regularly check with the doctor and closely monitoring heart health.