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What are the symptoms of an atrial septal defect (ASD)?

The signs and symptoms caused by an atrial septal defect (ASD) can be different for each person. Some people have no symptoms because their ASD is very small. Many people do not start having symptoms until they are teenagers or young adults. You may have one or more of the following signs and symptoms:

  • fatigue (tiredness)
  • frequent colds or lung infections
  • heart murmur (extra sound) when healthcare providers listen to your heartbeat
  • lips and fingernails turn blue with activity
  • palpitations (heartbeat that is not regular)
  • shortness of breath during exercise or activities like climbing stairs
  • shortness of breath when you lie down
  • slow growth, and problems gaining weight (for some children with ASD)
  • stroke

Symptoms of atrial septal defect may not occur until adulthood—often age 30 or older—after damage to the heart and lungs has occurred. Even with large ASDs, symptoms may be minimal or absent.

Adults with atrial septal defect may have some, all, or none of the following symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Swelling in the legs, feet or abdomen
  • Palpitations, or irregular beats of the heart

An atrial septal defect may be discovered by your doctor incidentally during a routine check-up. If your doctor hears a heart murmur through the stethoscope or finds other signs of a heart abnormality, he or she may suspect an atrial septal defect and refer you for tests to determine if it is present.

Fatigue, weakness and shortness of breath are symptoms of an atrial septal defect (ASD).

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.