Congenital Heart Disease in Adults

What is Congenital Heart Disease in Adults?

People who have congenital heart disease are born with this condition but many individuals do not show any signs of heart defects until they are adults. Some people have heart procedures performed when they are infants or children and when they reach adulthood they often start showing symptoms of heart issues.

Individuals who had heart surgery as a child can develop heart arrhythmias due to the buildup of scar tissue at the surgical site. When a person has a heart arrhythmia, their heart may beat too slow, too fast or abnormally. When adults have congenital heart disease they are at risk of developing pulmonary hypertension, endocarditis and heart failure.

What are the Symptoms of Congenital Heart Disease in Adults?

Adults who have congenital heart disease will have various symptoms that are an indication they need to visit a medical professional.

Symptoms include

These symptoms include dizzy spells, passing out, swollen ankles, irregular heartbeat, tiredness and being out of breath during physical activities. Some adults will sweat excessively and even experience chest pains when they have congenital heart disease. The heart may begin to beat very quickly and a person’s breathing pattern may also increase. Cyanosis, which causes the skin to appear blue because of bad circulation or a decrease of oxygen in the blood, may also be present.

Congenital Heart Disease In Adults Causes

As is the case with congenital heart defects in children, the exact causes of the condition in adults is unknown. It is a mysterious disorder, especially when it persists into adulthood without a diagnosis. What is known is that the defects occur during pregnancy (specifically the first six weeks) as the heart is first forming its blood vessels and muscle structure. While the causes are unclear, there are certain risk factors with a strong correlation with instances of the disease. Some common risks factors include a family history of the disease, infections (such as rubella) during pregnancy and the medical condition of the mother. Diabetes of the mother and other blood sugar disorders during pregnancy is commonly linked to heart defects in infants. Smoking and substance abuse has also been shown to raise the risk substantially. Exposure of mothers to chemicals and side effects of certain medications are also suspected of leading to congenital heart defects.

How is a Congenital Heart Disease in Adults Treated?

After an examination, the physician may prescribe a medication if the heart defects are not too serious. Some drugs assist the heart as it functions and other prescriptions are needed to keep adults from getting blood clots. Many adults have heart devices, such as a pacemaker and an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator, implanted in their body to aid the heart. Catheterization procedures are commonly performed to make repairs to the heart without cutting into the chest cavity. When necessary, some adults must have open heart surgery to fix the defects in the heart.

Congenital Heart Disease in Adults Prevention

The sad truth is that prevention of congenital heart disease in adults may be impossible. These defects are realized during pregnancy and adults may have had them all throughout their childhood even though they were not detected during that time. With that being said, there are some steps that can be taken to prevent the heart conditions from becoming debilitating and even fatal to adults. These include many of the steps taken to prevent heart failure as a result of other forms of heart disease. A healthy diet, moderate exercise, and refraining from drinking and smoking are essential to managing this condition. Steps that can be taken by expectant mothers to reduce the risk to their babies can also reduce instances of those children becoming adults with the condition.

Last Reviewed:
September 19, 2016
Last Updated:
December 08, 2017
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