How Congenital Heart Disease Can Impact Adults

The most common birth defect is congenital heart disease, also known as congenital heart defects or CHD. The term congenital heart disease encompasses multiple ways in which the heart or blood vessels near the heart do not develop properly before birth. Simply put, they are conditions present at birth that affect the heart's structure and the way it works. 

Although Oklahoma Heart Hospital does not treat pediatric patients, we do see adults with congenital heart defects that continue to impact them throughout their lifetime.

The good news is that most people born with congenital heart disease live normal, healthy lives and survive well into adulthood. In fact, some congenital heart defects aren’t even diagnosed until adulthood when symptoms first appear. The most common symptoms in adults are shortness of breath, dizziness, fatigue when exercising, or heart palpitations. 

Diagnosing CHD in adults

The symptoms of congenital heart disease in adults are similar to symptoms of many other heart conditions, and there are many options available to help diagnose CHD in adults. Your doctor will begin with a review of your symptoms and what scenarios, if any, make your symptoms worse. They may also order tests, such as an electrocardiogram (EKC), echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart), chest x-ray, or MRI to evaluate your heart rhythm and look at the structure of your heart. 

Treatment of CHD in adults

The treatment approach for congenital heart disease in adults will vary based on severity of the condition. Some do not require treatment at all, while others may require medication or surgery to repair a structural defect in the heart. Once you have been diagnosed with a congenital heart defect, it’s important to see a specialist regularly to monitor your condition over time. 

Prior diagnosis with congenital heart disease can put you at higher risk for certain conditions as an adult, including pulmonary hypertension, arrythmias, congestive heart failure, endocarditis, and blood clotting disorders. Endocarditis is an infection that occurs when bacteria enters the bloodstream and travels to the heart. For some specific types of congenital heart disease, proactive treatment with antibiotics may be recommended prior to dental surgery or other medical procedures. Talk to your doctor if you have questions about your endocarditis risk or your individual risk for other heart conditions due to a congenital heart defect. 

If you are an adult who has been previously diagnosed with congenital heart disease, contact us today to schedule an appointment with one of our physicians.