Congenital heart disease is abnormal heart structure that one is born with. This condition implies that there was a surgical treatment during childhood to repair the defect, although further care in life is also necessary.
Symptoms of congenital heart disease may show later in life or years after the heart defect treatment. These most common symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
- Cyanosis (bluish skin tint)
- Chest pain
- Feeling tired quickly after exertion
- Dizziness or fainting
- Edema (swelling) in tissues or organs
The cause of the congenital heart defect is not exactly known, although the key roles is associated to genetics, certain medical condition or medications.
The defect happens when the heart of the baby begins to form two sides (left and right) and the large blood vessels.
The heart defect may be repaired after delivery, but it is not cured and therefore a heart problem can reappear later in life. Another possibility is that the problem may have got worse with age, or the intervention done in the childhood may cause other complications later in life.
The risk factors for congenital heart disease are:
- Genetic syndromes that run in the family
- Rubella in the pregnant mother
- Medications, such as lithium
- Drinking alcohol during pregnancy
- Diabetes – type 1 or type 2 diabetes in the mother; although gestational diabetes generally doesn't increase the risk of developing a heart defect.
The complications of congenital heart disease usually develop many years after the treatment and they vary. The most common are:
- Arrhythmia – can be caused by the scar of previous surgery; sometimes it can be so severe that can cause sudden cardiac death if not treated appropriately
- Heart infections (endocarditis) from bacteria or germs, which can destroy the heart valves if left untreated
- Stroke – a blood clot can pass from a heart vein to the brain due to an abnormal connection in the heart
- Heart failure (the heart can't pump enough blood to the body)
- Pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure that affects only the lung arteries), causing possible permanent lung artery damage
- Heart valve problems – in cases when the congenital heart defect affects the valves; if initially the defect was in the valves, a surgery may have been performed early after birth, so valve replacement may be possible later in life