Monday, May 14, 2012

Understanding Congenital Heart Disease

The heart is the most important part of one's body; it ensures blood circulation throughout the body, without which life would not be possible. Medicine has advanced greatly and, with modern technology, almost all heart diseases can be treated successfully if detected in time.

What is Congenital Heart Disease

Congenital heart disease, or CHD, is a malformation of the heart or a large blood vessel near the heart. Congenital heart disease is a condition that one is born with and it is one of the most common forms of major birth defects in newborns, affecting approximately 8% per 1000 infants. It is normally diagnosed within one week from birth in 40-50% of congenital heart disease cases.

This condition is not a problem until after birth, as the blood circulation differs from that after birth. The fetal circulation derives oxygen and nutrients from the mother through the placenta, and the fetal circulation has important communications between the upper heart chambers and the great blood vessels near the heart. Consequently, most types of congenital heart disease are well tolerated during fetal life.

The Cause of Congenital Heart Disease

This disease can have different causes such as:

- Environmental factors such as chemicals or drugs are sometimes to blame. For example, if a mother-to-be catches measles or rubella during pregnancy, the infection can impair the development of the unborn baby's heart or other organs. Similar effects can take place if the mother-to-be consumes alcohol during pregnancy.

- Maternal diseases for the mother can increase the risks of developing congenital heart disease in the unborn baby.

- Chromosome abnormalities - a common chromosome abnormality causing congenital heart disease is Down's syndrome where an extra #21 chromosome is present. About 50% of children with Down's syndrome also have CHD.

Treating Congenital Heart Disease

The treatment depends from person to person due to the huge difference in occurrence from case to case. Everything needs to be taken into consideration in order to follow an effective treatment program.

A treatment program can only be decided after proper diagnosis made by a specialist. While eating healthy and exercising always helps, congenital heart disease is a special case which needs to follow strict doctor's instructions; no self medication or treatment is advised. Information and guidelines are available both online and in the doctor's office to help one educate themselves in order to deal better with this disease.

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