Definition:Congenital heart disease is one or more problems with the heart's structure that exist since birth. Congenital means that you're born with the defect. Congenital heart disease, also called congenital heart defect, can change the way blood flows through your heart. Some congenital heart defects might not cause any problems. Complex defects, however, can cause life-threatening complications.
Advances in diagnosis and treatment have allowed babies with congenital heart disease to survive well into adulthood. Sometimes, signs and symptoms of congenital heart disease aren't seen until you're an adult.
If you have congenital heart disease you likely will need care throughout your life. Check with your doctor to determine how often you need a checkup.

Some congenital heart defects cause no signs or symptoms. For some people, signs or symptoms occur later in life. And symptoms can return years after you've had treatment for a heart defect.
Common congenital heart disease symptoms in adults include:

When to see a doctor
If you're having worrisome symptoms, such as chest pain or shortness of breath, seek emergency medical attention.
If you have signs or symptoms of congenital heart disease or were treated for a congenital heart defect as a child, make an appointment to see your doctor.
Researchers aren't sure what causes most types of congenital heart disease. Some congenital heart diseases are passed down through families (inherited).
To understand congenital heart disease, it helps to know how the heart works.

Congenital heart disease can affect any of these heart structures, including the arteries, valves, chambers and the wall of tissue that separates the chambers (septum).
Risk factors
Certain environmental and genetic risk factors might play a role in the development of congenital heart disease, including:

Congenital heart disease complications that might develop years after you receive treatment include:

Adult congenital heart disease and pregnancy
Women with mild congenital heart disease can have a successful pregnancy. However, some women with complex congenital heart defects are advised against pregnancy.
If you're thinking about becoming pregnant, talk to you doctor about the possible risks and complications. Together you can discuss and plan for any special care you might need during pregnancy.
Both men and women with congenital heart disease are at increased risk of passing some form of congenital heart disease to their children. Your doctor might suggest genetic counseling or screening if you plan to have children.
To diagnose congenital heart disease, your doctor will do a physical exam and listen to your heart with a stethoscope. You will be asked questions about your symptoms and medical and family history.
Tests to diagnose or rule out congenital heart disease include:

Congenital heart disease can often be treated successfully in childhood. However, some heart defects may not be serious enough to repair during childhood, but they can cause problems as you grow older.
Treatment of congenital heart disease in adults depends on how severe your heart problem is. You may simply be monitored, or you may need medications or surgery.
Watchful waiting
Relatively minor heart defects might require only occasional checkups with your doctor to make sure your condition doesn't worsen. Ask your doctor how often you need to be seen.
Some mild congenital heart defects can be treated with medications that help the heart work more efficiently. You might also need medications to prevent blood clots or to control an irregular heartbeat.
Surgeries and other procedures
Several surgeries and procedures are available to treat adults with congenital heart disease.

Follow-up care
If you're an adult with congenital heart disease, you're at risk of developing complications — even if you had surgery to repair a defect during childhood. Lifelong follow-up care is important. Ideally, a cardiologist trained in treating adults with congenital heart defects will manage your care.
Follow-up care may include regular doctor checkups and occasional bloodwork and imaging exams to screen for complications. How often you'll need to see your doctor will depend on whether your congenital heart disease is mild or complex.
Coping and support
One important thing to do if you're an adult with congenital heart disease is to become educated about your condition. Topics you should become familiar with include:

Many adults with congenital heart disease lead full, long and productive lives. But it's important not to ignore your condition. Become informed about your disease; the more you know, the better you'll do.
Preparing for your appointment
If you have a congenital heart defect, make an appointment with your doctor for follow-up care, even if you haven't developed complications. You'll likely be referred to a doctor trained in diagnosing and treating heart conditions (cardiologist).
Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment.
What you can do
When you make the appointment, ask if there's anything you need to do in advance, such as restrict your diet or fast. Make a list of:

Take a family member or friend with you, if possible, to help you remember the information you get. For congenital heart disease, questions to ask your doctor include:

Don't hesitate to ask other questions.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you questions, including:
Do your symptoms come and go, or do you have them all the time?
How severe are your symptoms?
Does anything seem to improve your symptoms?
What, if anything, worsens your symptoms?
What's your lifestyle like, including your diet, tobacco use, physical activity and alcohol use?

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