Congenital heart disease, also called congenital heart defect, is a heart problem that exists at birth. These include conditions that affect the structure or function of the heart. A heart problem is the most common type of birth defect.
Some of the most common types of congenital heart disease are:
- Heart valve problems that affect blood flow and circulation
- Septal defects, which are holes in the wall separating each side of the heart
- Blood vessel problems that affects blood circulation to and from the heart
Your doctor may determine there’s a problem during a routine pregnancy ultrasound.
The OB-GYN team at a Dignity Health Souther California hospital offers the latest care to treat and manage a range of fetal conditions. We specialize in congenital heart disease in Southern California.
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Congenital Heart Disease Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of congenital heart disease depend on the type and severity of the problem. Some heart defects are very mild and aren’t recognizable until later on, while others can be life-threatening and require immediate treatment. Signs of distress may be visible at birth or several days or weeks afterwards. In some cases, a congenital heart defect may not cause any problems until later in life.
Generally, congenital heart disease symptoms include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Fast breathing
- Shortness of breath
- Swelling of the legs, arms, and abdomen
- Tiring easily
- Clubbing of the fingers
- A bluish or dusky tint to the skin
Congenital Heart Disease Causes
Often, there’s no known cause. Factors associated with the development of congenital heart disease include:
- Exposure to infection or toxic substances
- Genetic or chromosomal defects
- Drinking alcohol during pregnancy
- Some medications
- Some chemicals
- Rubella (German measles)
- Smoking during pregnancy
- Poorly controlled blood sugar
Congenital Heart Disease Treatment at Dignity Health Southern California Hospital
The goal of treatment for congenital heart disease is to give your baby a healthy life. A Dignity Health maternal-fetal specialist or pediatric cardiologist can help you understand your baby’s heart condition and plan his or her care.
Treatment may not be necessary for small heart defects that don’t cause health problems. Your pediatric cardiologist will monitor your child and provide appropriate care as needed. Medication is often prescribed to manage congenital heart problems.
By following these steps, you can take an active role in preventing congenital heart defects:
- Get regular prenatal care
- Abstain from alcohol, smoking, and illicit drugs during pregnancy
- Take daily folic acid during your childbearing years
- Make sure your immunizations up to date
- Keep your blood sugar levels within normal limits
Doctors at Dignity Health Southern California, in Long Beach, Northridge, Downtown LA, Glendale, and San Bernardino offer diagnosis and treatment options for congenital heart disease.