Congenital heart disease is characterized by presence of defect in the heart’s structure or blood vessels that take place during fetal development. The condition is also referred to as congenital heart defect.
Signs and symptoms of congenital heart disease do not show up until late adulthood. Many children may have heart defects, but would not present with any symptoms. In certain cases, adults who have had congenital heart defects can experience some of the following symptoms later in life :
With advancements in medical treatment, children born with congenital defect can now successfully survive the condition and lead a healthy life. However, adults with congenital heart disease need to be careful and follow certain precautionary measures. Failure to do so can cause development of serious complications. Regular monitoring is necessary throughout the life. In many instances, congenital heart defects are not diagnosed during infancy, which can be a cause of significant disability as the person ages [6, 7].
Interplay of genetic and environmental factors give rise to condition of congenital heart disease. Genetic changes characterized by focal mutations and/or deletion or addition of DNA segments are the major cause that trigger development of anatomical defects in the heart during fetal development. Large chromosomal abnormalities including trisomies 13, 21 and 18 are known to contribute in 5 – 8% cases of congenital heart defects.
In addition to genetic defects, various antenatal factors such as alcohol abuse, smoking, drug overdose and maternal diseases including diabetes, systemic lupus erythematosus and phenylketonuria also significantly contribute to development of congenital heart disease. Several studies have also pointed towards a strong association between maternal obesity and development of congenital heart disease [2, 3].
Congenital heart disease is most common cause of mortality and was associated with 223,000 deaths across the globe in the year 2010. The incidence of mortality has however decreased since the year 1990, owing to advancements in medical treatments that has enabled children to survive the disease .
Statistics have revealed that about 8 – 10 out of every 1000 children are affected by congenital heart defects. It was also estimated that about 500, 000 adults in USA have suffered congenital heart disease during childhood.
Heart defects take place during fetal development. In the first months of gestation, the heart begins to beat, though the heart is not fully developed at this stage. During the later stages, all the 4 chambers of the heart develop and at this point anomalies can arise. Genetic mutations at this stage or environmental factors can cause such type of structural anomalies to develop.
On the 28th day of development, failure of the endocardial cushions to fuse results in development of heart defect. Such a type of event causes the blood to leak into the chambers. All these events favor the development of congenital heart disease .
Avoiding alcohol consumption and smoking during pregnancy can help prevent development of congenital heart disease. Effective management of underlying disease conditions such as diabetes and hypertension can also go a long way in preventing the risk of heart defects during fetal development. Regular health checkups would be indicated to prevent complications from setting in .
It is considered to be one of the most common types of congenital defect. Several advances in medical treatment have allowed children with congenital heart disease to survive the condition and lead a healthy life. However, such children do need additional care during their growing up years and also when they reach adulthood. This is because, if care and precautions are not seriously followed, it can give rise to various complications later in life .