Heart Disease in Children

Heart disease is difficult enough when it strikes adults, but it can be especially tragic in children.

There are many different types of heart problems that can affect children. They include congenital heart defects, viral infections that affect the heart, and even heart disease acquired later in childhood due to illnesses or genetic syndromes.

The good news is that with advances in medicine and technology, many children with heart disease go on to live active, full lives.

Congenital Heart Disease

Congenital heart disease is a type of heart disease that children are born with, usually caused by heart defects that are present at birth.

In fact, the most common heart conditions found in children are structural heart defects, which occur in roughly 8 of 1,000 live births. These usually involve a problem with the heart muscle or the heart valves, and include:

Other congenital heart defects that affect children include:

Congenital heart defects may have long-term effects on a child’s health. They’re usually treated with surgery, catheter procedures, medications, and in severe cases, heart transplants.

Atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis is the term used to describe the buildup of fat and cholesterol-filled plaques inside the arteries. As the buildup increases, arteries become stiffened and narrowed, which increases the risk of blood clots and heart attacks. It typically takes many years for atherosclerosis to develop. It’s unusual for children or teenagers to suffer from it.

However, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and other health issues put children at higher risk. Doctors recommend screening for high cholesterol and high blood pressure in children who have risk factors like family history of heart disease or diabetes and are overweight or obese.

Treatment typically involves lifestyle changes like increased exercise and dietary modifications.

Arrhythmias

An arrhythmia is an abnormal rhythm of the heart. This can cause the heart to pump less efficiently.

Many different types of arrhythmias may occur in children, including:

Symptoms may include:

Eisenmenger Syndrome

Though not a type of heart disease specifically, this syndrome typically indicates a problem with the heart. Eisenmenger’s is actually a collection of three symptoms, including: