The survival rate of children with congenital heart disease has improved significantly over the last few decades. However, it remains a significant challenge to provide the care and support that these patients need throughout their lives.
Even if a defect is found and repaired early in life, it may reappear later in adulthood, or existing problems may worsen, or the repair might not work. Moreover, scar tissue from earlier surgeries may develop and increase the risk for complications.
Living with a congenital heart defect (CHD) can be challenging. It requires patients to become their healthcare advocates and understand the effects of their condition on their lives.
There are many types of CHD, ranging from simple defects that do not cause problems to complex conditions that can lead to life-threatening complications. Fortunately, the diagnosis and treatment of CHDs have improved dramatically, so most children with these conditions live into adulthood.
Depending on the type of defect, adults may need frequent heart checks and be treated for infections. They may also need to take certain medicines throughout their lives.
Living with a Congenital Heart Defect in Teenagers
Congenital heart disease is when the walls, valves and arteries of the heart do not develop normally before birth. It can disrupt the normal blood flow throughout the body, leading to several health problems, from simple defects that may not cause symptoms to complex life-threatening conditions requiring major surgery.
People with congenital heart disease need ongoing monitoring and support to ensure their health stays on track. They may also need to make lifestyle changes to help prevent future problems.
Teenagers and their parents may find it challenging to manage a disease that first manifested in a youngster. But suppose children are educated about their condition early and begin to develop habits for healthy living as adolescents. In that case, they will have a better chance of living healthy, happy lives throughout adulthood. Organizations like Conquering CHD help set them up for long-term success, ensuring that they will receive the care they need when it is needed most.
Living with a Congenital Heart Defect in Children
Around one in every 100 newborns is born with congenital heart defects (CHDs), the most prevalent congenital impairment. They can range in severity from minor problems to severe malformations.
A normal heart has four “holding areas” called chambers, separated by a septum, that pump blood in and out of the body. Each chamber has one-way valves that open and close to allow blood to flow in the right direction.
These four valves generally cannot open and seal in children with congenital heart defects. It disrupts the flow of blood through the heart.
Fortunately, many congenital heart defects are treatable. Surgery, catheterization and ongoing follow-up care may help children with CHD live longer, healthier lives.
Living with a Congenital Heart Defect in Adulthood
Many types of congenital heart defects exist, which range from simple holes in the heart to circulatory problems and even missing parts of the heart. The defects can disrupt a person’s circulatory system, causing blood flow to slow, go in the wrong direction or be blocked completely.
Fortunately, with advances in diagnosis and treatment, most people with congenital heart disease survive well into adulthood. Still, there are special considerations when living with this condition.
Most young adults with complex congenital heart disease need ongoing specialized care from doctors specializing in adult congenital heart disease.