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What are the symptoms of congenital heart defects (CHD)?

For severe congenital heart defects (CHD), symptoms usually show up soon after birth. Babies with CHD might have something called cyanosis, where the skin looks blue. Other early symptoms include difficulty breathing, eating and growing. Babies with these symptoms need treatment early to help them grow. Milder symptoms may include feeling tired or becoming short of breath, especially during physical activities like sports. If congenital heart defect symptoms are mild, people may not find out they have a heart defect until they’re older. Not everyone with a heart defect has symptoms.

Ellen Charnley
Health Education Specialist

Many adults do not have symptoms from congenital heart defects until age 30 or 40. Common long-term problems include enlargement of the right side of the heart, rhythm problems, valve problems, heart failure, heart infection and stroke. Many adults require surgery to fix their defects. Virtually all adults who live beyond the age of 60 with congenital heart defects become symptomatic, and if their condition is left untreated, the average survival rate beyond 40 or 50 years is 50 percent.

Living Life to the Full: My Ironman Journey from open-heart surgery to an Ironman triathlon in just eight months

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Living Life to the Full: My Ironman Journey from open-heart surgery to an Ironman triathlon in just eight months

Ellen Charnley is a Chartered Accountant and avid Triathlete. Ellen has completed many triathlons both locally and internationally. Born in England, she and her husband, Don, have lived in London,...

Signs and symptoms for congenital heart defects (CHD) depend on the type and severity of the particular defect. Some defects might have few or no signs or symptoms. Others might cause a baby to have the following symptoms:

  • Blue-tinted nails or lips
  • Fast or troubled breathing
  • Tiredness when feeding
  • Sleepiness

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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.