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Congenital Heart Defects

A congenital heart defect is a problem with the structure of the heart. It is present at birth. Congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defect. The defects can involve the walls of the heart, the valves of the heart, and the arteries and veins near the heart. They can disrupt the normal flow of blood through the heart. The blood flow can slow down, go in the wrong direction or to the wrong place, or be blocked completely.

Doctors use a physical exam and special heart tests to diagnose congenital heart defects. They often find severe defects during pregnancy or soon after birth. Signs and symptoms of severe defects in newborns include:

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

Many congenital heart defects cause few or no signs and symptoms. They are often not diagnosed until children are older.

Many children with congenital heart defects don't need treatment, but others do. Treatment can include medicines, catheter procedures, surgery, and heart transplants. The treatment depends on the type of the defect, how severe it is, and a child's age, size, and general health.

NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Health Checkup

Regular health exams and tests can help find problems before they start. They also can help find problems early, when your chances for treatment and cure are better. Which exams and screenings you need depends on your age, health and family history, and lifestyle choices such as what you eat, how active you are, and whether you smoke.

To make the most of your next check-up, here are some things to do before you go:

  • Review your family medical history
  • Find out if you are due for any general screenings or vaccinations
  • Write down a list of issues and questions to take with you

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