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While cardiac problems tend to be more common in adults, children can also suffer from heart problems. In adults, many heart conditions are due to coronary artery disease, which develops slowly over time. In children, the cause of heart problems is usually genetic or acquired as a result of another condition, such as an infection.
Heart Murmurs In Children
A heart murmur in itself is not a heart condition. But since murmurs are very common in children, it is important to understand what a murmur is and what it can indicate.
A heart murmur can be a sign of an underlying problem with the heart. But in many instances, a heart murmur is not caused by any heart problem and is harmless.
Murmurs can occur due to structural abnormalities of the heart, such as a problem with a heart value. The condition is often present from birth, although some structural abnormalities can be acquired later in life. A murmur can also be caused by a disorder of the heart muscle itself or can occur from damage due to an infection in the lining of the heart.
Many heart murmurs are referred to as functional murmurs because they do not cause additional symptoms. Functional murmurs may come and go and do not require any treatment.
Acquired Heart Conditions In Children
Acquired heart conditions are a condition a child was not born with but develops at some point in their life. For instance, a child may have an infection or similar condition, which results in damage to the heart. The most common diseases or infections, which can lead to heart damage in childhood include Kawasaki disease and rheumatic fever.
Kawasaki disease is a medical condition, which causes inflammation in the arteries throughout the body including the coronary arteries. The reasons why the condition develops is not known. Some theories suggest there is an environmental cause.
Symptoms often develop in phases. In the first phase, symptoms may include fever, swollen lymph nodes and a skin rash, usually on the trunk. Symptoms of the second phase may include diarrhea, stomach pain, joint pain and peeling of the skin on the hands and feet. Although not all children will develop cardiac complications, they can occur. According to the Mayo Clinic, Kawasaki disease is the main cause of acquired heart conditions in children. Inflammation of the coronary arteries, heart value problems and myocarditis, are possible. The good news is the condition usually resolves, and permanent heart damage is uncommon.
Rheumatic fever is another cause of acquired cardiac conditions in children. It is considered a complication of strep throat. If not treated properly, the bacteria, which causes strep throat, can travel to the heart and lead to inflammation, which can result in damage to the heart and heart valves.
Symptoms can include fever, chest and joint pain, and fatigue. Antibiotics are usually prescribed to treat the condition. In many instances, the condition resolves after treatment, but permanent heart damage is possible.