Heart problems in children are more varied and complex than in adults as they suffer from a group of diseases called congenital heart diseases (Cardiac defects present since birth) as well as from many diseases seen in adults. Children with congenital heart disease pose a significant health problem. The severity of congenital heart disease range from simple defects to various complex diseases. A significant proportion of the untreated children with congenital heart disease actually die before reaching adolescence. But the good news is many of children’s heart diseases are completely treatable by early and effective therapy.
These days the advent of fetal echocardiography has enabled us to know about the structure and function of the developing heart of the fetus. Fetal echocardiography can diagnose important heart diseases in fetus making it possible to take adequate precautionary measures.
It is important to know about the symptoms of heart disease in children so that unnecessary delay in seeking medical attention can be avoided. I will explain about the symptoms.
Symptoms of heart disease in children
The important symptoms of heart disease include
- Cyanosis: it means bluish discoloration of lips, tongue, finger tips and toes. Sometimes cyanosis is mild and inapparent to the eye, but the child would be obviously blue while crying. Cyanosis is usually associated with serious cardiovascular diseases. Never ignore any cyanosis seen in a child and you should immediately consult your doctor.
- Difficulty in breathing: In small children suffering from heart disease, there will be fast breathing. The child has difficulty with taking feeds, gets fatigued easily
- Excessive Sweating may be seen
- Growth retardation: reduced weight and height for age
- Frequent respiratory Infections : pneumonias can occur
- Exercise intolerance: unable to perform at par with other children
- Loss of consciousness may be seen in more serious conditions.
It is important to understand that these are common symptoms , but there can be atypical presentations also. So if you suspect anything is abnormal with your child visit a pediatric cardiologist.
Types Of Heart Problems In Children
Common types of heart problems in children are
- “ A hole in the heart” meaning usually – atrial septal defect, ventricular septal defect and patent ductus arteriosus. Anyone interested can read about these defects in my other posts.
- Stenosis(blockage) of a valve
- Cyanotic congenital heart diseases
- Acquired heart diseases- which affect in later parts of life.
- Many complex anomalies are there which I am not describing here.
To conclude this post – childrens are at risk for heart disease some are serious. Timely diagnosis and treatment are of vital importance.
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Dr. Anupam Jena