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7 Signs of an Undiagnosed Congenital Heart Defect
Posted on: August 26th, 2019


There are many reasons for getting winded when you climb stairs or exercise. In rare cases, adults can potentially find the culprit is a congenital heart defect or an undiagnosed heart condition that developed before you were born.

Experts estimate about one out of every 150 adults lives with congenital heart disease. Most received treatment when they were very young, often in infancy. But on rare occasions, people don’t find out they have a defect until much later in life.

What symptoms might signal a heart defect?

There are symptoms that might alert you to an undiagnosed heart problem. These include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart palpitations
  • Fainting spells
  • Abnormal heart rate
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Bloating or fluid in the lower legs that doesn’t resolve with elevation
  • Blue fingertips or toes after exertion

Shortness of breath, particularly during exercise, is the most common indicator of a congenital heart problem.

Many adults who discover a heart defect report they were always a little short of breath but just learned to compensate for it.

How do doctors treat heart defects in adults?

Treatment options vary widely depending on the underlying condition, how long you have had it and what level of heart damage there is.

After an examination, your medical team will likely choose from among the following options:

  • Continue to monitor your progress (if there is no damage).
  • Prescribe medication to avoid issues such as arrhythmia.
  • Replace or repair a heart valve using a minimally invasive catheter procedure.
  • Repair damage through open heart surgery.
  • Perform a heart transplant (if damage is severe).


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