What are Congenital Heart Defects?

A congenital heart defect is a problem with a person’s heart that they are born with. Congenital heart defects are usually diagnosed at birth or shortly after birth. There are many different types of congenital heart defects. It is important to know the symptoms of these conditions in order to treat them in your child.

Symptoms of congenital heart defects include:

  • Cyanosis, or the presence of a pale grey or blue skin coloring
  • Abnormal breathing patterns including fast breaths, grunting while breathing, and hard time breathing during feedings
  • Flaring of the nostrils
  • Swollen legs, abdomen, and eye area

Congenital heart defects are not all the same. There are many different problems that can occur with the heart and each may require a different treatment. Some congenital heart defects are caused by genetic syndromes, while others are caused by single gene defects and environmental factors during pregnancy.

Although many children with congenital heart defects do not need treatment, others with more serious defects do. Different types of congenital heart defects require different treatment plans. Some of these treatments include:

  • Medications
  • Catheterization procedures that do not require surgery
  • Open-heart surgery
  • Heart transplants in extreme cases

Knowing the symptoms of congenital heart defects can help detect problems early and get early treatment if necessary.


Jaime Venditti, State Coordinator, New York Health Works