How to Know if a Loved One Has a Congenital Heart Defect

An estimated 2 million people in the United States are living with a congenital heart defect. Congenital heart defects, sometimes called congenital heart disease, are problems in or around your heart that affect how it works.

The term “congenital” means present from birth, but that doesn’t mean that all congenital heart defects are identified when a baby is born. Some can go undetected until a child is older, while others may not show signs until adulthood.

Getting a congenital heart defect diagnosis can be scary, whether it’s you, your child, or another loved one that’s affected. At NJ Cardiovascular Institute, Kunal Patel, MD, and our team are here for you. We offer the latest in heart care services so you and your family can enjoy healthy, active lives.

Understanding congenital heart defects

Congenital heart defects are problems with the way a baby’s heart developed before they were born. There are at least 18 different types of congenital heart defects, ranging in severity from a small hole in the heart to severely deformed or missing parts.

A few common symptoms that newborn babies may exhibit if they have a congenital heart defect include:

Along with these symptoms common in babies and children, others can develop in adults with congenital heart problems. 

Symptoms affecting adults can include:

Some congenital heart defects don’t show symptoms right away, and others never show symptoms. It’s also possible that a congenital heart defect that was treated years ago can begin showing symptoms again.

Diagnosing a congenital heart defect

It’s possible to identify and diagnose congenital heart defects at any point in your life. Sometimes, fetal echocardiogram testing identifies defects before a baby is born. Most commonly, defects are found after birth or during childhood.

At NJ Cardiovascular Institute, we offer comprehensive diagnostic testing to evaluate heart health, including echocardiograms and stress testing.

Having a congenital heart defect may put you or your loved one at risk for other heart problems throughout life. 

Common conditions that occur alongside congenital heart defects include:

Getting a diagnosis is the first step to better understanding your heart health. With the right treatment, it’s possible to enjoy a long and healthy life.

Life with a congenital heart defect

Since there are so many different types of congenital heart defects, treatments vary from one person to another. Mild or moderate defects may not require treatment at all. Instead, you or your child will need to visit with Dr. Patel regularly to ensure there aren’t any changes in heart health.

More serious congenital heart defects may require surgery or another procedure, like cardiac catheterization. Our goal in treating congenital heart defects is to correct them or minimize the effects that they have on your health.

As your child grows, talk to us about ways to keep them safe. Physical activity is generally good for the heart, but your child may need modifications at school to ensure they stay as healthy as possible. 

If you or a loved one experiences chest pain or shortness of breath, call 911 or go to the emergency room. If you notice symptoms of a congenital heart defect and you’ve been diagnosed or treated for a defect in the past, make an appointment to see us.

These days, people born with heart defects can live long, healthy, and active lives. To learn more about caring for a loved one with a congenital heart defect, talk to Dr. Patel and our team. Call the office nearest you, in Secaucus or Newark, New Jersey, or use the “book online” feature today.

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