Heart Disease in Children

We tend to think that heart disease comes with age. Over time, the harmful chemicals we put on our body along with the natural effects of aging take their toll and our organs break down, the heart being one of them.

But, unfortunate as it is, heart disease can occur in children too. They may be born with defects or they may deal with illness that affects their hearts early on. This article will examine the ways heart disease can occur at a young age. 

Congenital Heart Disease: 1% of children in the United States are born with CHD each year. It encompasses a variety of disorders including: 

  • Heart valve disorders
  • Hypoplastic left heart syndrome
  • Ventricular septal defects
  • Atrial septal defects
  • Patent ductus defects
  • Tetralogy of Fallot

CHD can be treated with surgery, catheter procedures and medications. However, it can have long term effects on the child’s health. 

Atherosclerosis

This condition is characterized by a buildup of fat and cholesterol filled plaques inside the arteries that cause them to narrow, increasing the risk of blood clots or heart attacks. Atherosclerosis is unusual in children, but it can occur in youth that have diabetes, hypertension or who are obese.

Treatment involves exercise and a healthy diet.

Arrhythmias

Arrhythmias are abnormal heart rates. Types of arrhythmias include:

  • Tachycardia: A fast heart rate
  • Bradycardia: A slow heart rate
  • Long Q-T Syndrome
  • Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome

An irregular heartbeat can cause symptoms like weakness, fainting, dizziness, fatigue and difficulty breathing. Treatment will vary depending on how it is affecting the child’s health. 

Kawasaki Disease

This is a rare disease that causes inflammation in the blood vessels of the hands, feet, mouth, lips and throat. Symptoms include fever and swollen lymph nodes. Researchers aren’t sure what causes the disease but it can be treated with aspirin and corticosteroids. 

Heart Murmurs

Heart murmurs are a sort of whooshing sound made when blood circulates through blood vessels, chambers or valves near the heart. Murmurs are often harmless, but they could be a sign of a serious underlying condition such as a CHD, fever or anemia. 

A harmless murmur will usually go away on its own, but one caused by an underlying condition will require treatment. 

Pericarditis

This condition occurs when the thin sac that surrounds the heart becomes inflamed or infected and interferes with the organ’s ability to pump blood. It is typically the result of heart surgery, a bacterial infection, chest trauma or a connective tissue disorder. Treatments vary depending on the cause of the condition and the child’s age and health status. 

Rheumatic Heart Disease

Rheumatic heart disease is caused by streptococcus bacteria which leads to strep throat or scarlet fever. If these conditions are not treated properly, the bacteria can cause severe damage to the heart valves and muscles. It typically occurs in children 5 to 15 years old, but symptoms may not show up for another 10 to 20 years. 

The condition is rare in America. It can be prevented by using antibiotics to rid the body of the bacteria promptly. 

Viral Infections

Viral infections don’t only occur in the respiratory system, they can occur in the heart as well. They can cause myocarditis which affects the heart’s ability to pump blood through the body. 

Viral infections of the heart are rare and may produce light symptoms that are similar to those produced by the flu. Medications used for myocarditis will be effective in treating viral infections. 

Children shouldn’t have to experience heart disease, but unfortunately, a small percentage will have to deal with cardiac issues. It’s good to know that there are ways to treat these conditions so affected youth can go on to lead long and healthy lives. 

We wish you and your family optimal wellness and longevity.

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