One of the most common birth defects, congenital heart disease includes any type of heart abnormality that's present at birth. Congenital heart disease can affect the heart valves, interior walls of the heart and vessels that carry blood to and from the heart.
Heart defects are often identified during infancy or childhood, with pediatric patients receiving treatment and ongoing follow-up care and observation. However, it's possible for a congenital heart defect to go unnoticed until adolescence or adulthood. Regardless of when it's detected, advancements in heart care and diagnostic and treatment technologies mean that more and more people with congenital heart disease are living well into adulthood.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than one million adults in the U.S. live with congenital heart disease. That number is expected to grow by five percent each year. As a result, the need for ongoing medical observation, care and treatment from cardiologists specially trained in treating adult congenital heart disease continues to grow.
Symptoms of congenital heart disease
Whether identified and treated during childhood or not, congenital heart disease does not always present noticeable signs or symptoms. Sometimes, symptoms surface later in life or even years after treatment.
Signs of adult congenital heart disease that require medical attention include:
- Irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia).
- Bluish or purplish skin discoloration (cyanosis).
- Shortness of breath or chest pain.
- Water retention (edema).