You might never have thought much about what your doctor is looking for when they listen to your heart during your annual physical. That can change instantly, though, when a medical professional hears something unexpected.

A heart murmur is a noise your doctor can hear with a stethoscope between heartbeats. These sounds can sound like clicking, whooshing, rubbing, or skipping. These noises indicate that there may be an issue with one or more of your heart valves.

The term “heart murmur” might sound scary, but having one doesn’t necessarily mean having a heart condition. Many heart murmurs go away on their own.

This article looks at heart murmurs and what they may mean for your health.

That will depend on the type and cause of the heart murmur. Heart murmurs are classified as “innocent” or “abnormal.”

  1. Heart murmurs defined as “innocent” are called such because they don’t necessarily indicate an underlying health condition. These heart murmurs are common, often detected during childhood, and usually go away on their own.
  2. Heart murmurs classified as “abnormal” can be caused by abnormalities in the anatomy of your heart, leaking in your heart valves, heart disease, or an infection. Abnormal heart murmurs typically need corrective treatment. This treatment may involve surgery, or it can be less invasive and require medication or lifestyle changes.

Do heart murmurs go away in babies?

Heart murmurs in babies are not that uncommon. Studies estimate that 8.6% of babies are born with a heart murmur, according to a report in American Family Physician. Heart murmurs in children are even more common, with 80% of kids experiencing a heart murmur at some point during the early years of life.

Most often, these murmurs go away on their own and don’t cause any other complications.

Do heart murmurs go away in adults?

Heart murmurs sometimes go away in adults. For example, benign murmurs are quite common during pregnancy. They will typically resolve as the body heals after pregnancy.

Heart murmurs resulting from an abnormality or heart disease will go away only if they are treated appropriately.

Do heart murmurs go away in older people?

Again, it will depend on the underlying cause. Older adults are at a higher risk for heart disease, but that doesn’t mean that a heart murmur is a cause for concern just because a person is older.

An older person can have an innocent heart murmur, or it can be a symptom of an underlying condition. If there are other symptoms accompanying the heart murmur, that can be an indication that something else is at play.

Do heart murmurs go away and come back?

Heart murmurs in children may disappear and reappear. For example, a child who is excited or nervous at the doctor’s office may experience a heart murmur at the moment of an exam as their heart rate speeds up. That same child might not have any detectable heart murmur when their heart is at its resting rate.

Adults may have a heart murmur because of a fever, infection, or vigorous exercise. Again, in many cases, these heart murmurs will resolve on their own or require no further treatment.

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If you have been diagnosed with a heart murmur or referred for further testing, you may be curious about what it means for your health and life expectancy. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about heart murmurs.

How long can you live with a heart murmur?

A heart murmur doesn’t necessarily have any bearing on your life expectancy. Even if you have heart disease or heart valve failure, finding the right treatment can mean living for many years. Heart murmurs are not a predictor of how long you will live.

Do heart murmurs always get worse with age?

Heart murmurs do not always get worse with age. Pediatric heart murmurs often disappear completely as a child matures. If you are an adult with a heart murmur caused by an underlying condition, the murmur may grow louder and additional symptoms may appear if you do not receive a diagnosis and begin treatment.

How serious is a heart murmur?

The severity of a heart murmur depends on if there is any underlying cause. A heart murmur is not indicative of an underlying condition in many cases. In cases of an abnormal heart murmur, the causes can include anemia, heart valve weakness, and heart disease. These are conditions that require treatment and sometimes can be considered serious.

What does a heart murmur feel like?

A heart murmur won’t cause pain or other symptoms in many cases. Sometimes, a heart murmur is a sign of an underlying condition, such as a defective heart valve. Chest pain, shortness of breath, a chronic cough, bluish skin, and enlarged neck veins can be a symptom of a heart condition.

Can you die from a heart murmur?

A heart murmur, by itself, is not a health condition. It is information about what is going on in your heart, indicating that further evaluation is needed.

In most cases, a heart murmur will go away on its own. Less frequently, a heart murmur can indicate a heart condition that needs to be treated. You won’t die from a heart murmur, but a heart murmur can be a symptom of heart disease, which is the leading cause of death worldwide.

However, even abnormal heart murmurs can often be treated with lifestyle changes. Sometimes an abnormal heart murmur will require surgery to resolve.

What causes a heart murmur?

Innocent heart murmurs often have no discernible cause. Abnormal heart murmurs can be caused by:

If your child’s pediatrician detects a heart murmur during an exam, they may recommend further testing (such as an echocardiogram). This testing is the standard way of ensuring that the murmur is nothing to be concerned about.

In most pediatric cases, heart murmurs are determined to be “innocent,” meaning they will likely resolve on their own. Less than 1% of pediatric heart murmurs referred for further testing are diagnosed with congenital heart disease.

You should never ignore chest pain or other signs of a heart not working efficiently. Signs that you need to see a doctor include:

Living with a heart murmur

If you or your child has a murmur caused by a congenital heart defect, it can feel isolating and confusing. Connecting with other parents and individuals who live with this condition can help. It can also feel empowering to get educated and learn about the latest research and treatment options.

Here are some resources to get you started:

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A heart murmur can sometimes go away on its own. This is usually what happens with infants and children. Further testing will determine whether any action is needed.

Adults who develop a heart murmur may also see the symptom go away with time. In some cases, treatment for an underlying heart condition will be required.