Adult Congenital Heart Disease

What is Congenital Heart Disease?

Congenital Heart Disease is a result of a disease or disorder of the heart that develops before birth, as opposed to heart disease which can develop as a person ages. Congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defect, and occur in about 1% of all live births.

Understanding the Heart

Causes of Congenital Heart Disease

A specific cause for congenital heart disease is unknown, but research has established several potential contributors to heart defects, including:

  • Heredity – Sometimes, but rarely, the defect is genetic.
  • Other medical conditions – Congenital birth defects such as Down’s syndrome can involve the heart as well as other organs.
  • Medications – Some over-the-counter and prescription medications taken by a pregnant woman can cause a congenital heart defect in her unborn baby.
  • Alcohol and/or drug use – Alcohol use or the use of illegal drugs during pregnancy can cause birth defects.

Types of Congenital Heart Defects

There are several types of heart defects, with various conditions related to each type. Development, symptoms and treatment vary by type.

Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA)

Obstruction defects

Septal defects

Cyanotic defects

Hypoplastic left heart syndrome

Preventing Birth Defects

Although doctors have not found one specific cause for congenital heart defects, certain behaviors have been identified as possible contributors. Pregnant women, as well as women planning to become pregnant, can do the following to help prevent birth defects such as congenital heart defects:

  • Stop smoking
  • Avoid drinking alcohol while pregnant
  • Take a daily vitamin containing folic acid
  • Check with your doctor to make sure any medication (over-the-counter or prescription) is safe to take during pregnancy
  • Stop use of any illegal or “street” drugs
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