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A cardiologist holds a stethoscope to check her patient's heart rate and rhythm.

Heart murmur

Heart murmurs are sounds in the heart caused by turbulent blood flow. The sounds are often described as a whooshing or swishing noise, and can be heard when a doctor is checking your heart with a stethoscope. Although some heart murmurs are innocent, others could be a sign of heart disease. Health care providers can check the heart and create a treatment plan once they determine the cause of the murmur.

Symptoms of a heart murmur

  • Chest pain
  • Persistent cough
  • Swollen neck veins
  • Dizziness and fainting
  • Blue or gray coloring of the fingernails or lips
  • Lack of growth in infants

Causes of a heart murmur

Innocent murmurs can be caused by a number of common factors, like:

  • Anemia
  • Exercise that increases heart rate
  • Fever
  • Growth spurts
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Pregnancy


Congenital conditions or heart damage in adulthood can lead to more serious heart murmurs. Those causes include:

  • Calcium deposits
  • Cardiac shunts
  • Endocarditis (infection of the heart’s inner lining and valves)
  • Holes found in the heart
  • Rheumatic fever

What are the different types of heart murmurs?

  • Diastolic murmurs occur when the heart is filling with blood.
  • Systolic murmurs happen when the heart is emptying.
  • A continuous murmur is present throughout the entire heartbeat.

Risk factors for a heart murmur

  • Anemia
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Family history
  • Heart disease
  • Overactive thyroid
  • Pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in the lungs)

Preventing heart murmurs

Murmurs in children often go away over time, but there is no specific form of prevention for congenital or acquired heart murmurs. Living a healthy lifestyle helps prevent conditions that can lead to heart murmurs in yourself and your children.

How do you treat a heart murmur?

Innocent heart murmurs do not require treatment. However, a worrisome heart murmur needs close monitoring by a cardiologist. Medication or surgery may be needed.

  • Medications used to treat heart murmurs:
    • Blood thinners
    • Water pills
    • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
    • Beta blockers
  • Heart valve repairs are used to treat heart murmurs and can be done as:
    • Open-heart surgery
    • Minimally invasive heart surgery
    • Robotic heart surgery
    • Catheter procedure

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