A heart murmur is a whooshing or swishing sound heard through a stethoscope when blood flows abnormally over your heart valves. Heart murmurs are common and don’t necessarily indicate a health problem, especially in children. However, murmurs should be evaluated because they may signal a heart problem or other health issue.
When your heart beats, valves open and close, allowing blood to flow. When the valves close, they produce two sounds: a “lub” and a “dub.”
If your heart makes a whooshing or swishing sound instead, that’s called a heart murmur. A murmur means blood is flowing abnormally across your heart valves.
A murmur may mean there’s a problem with your heart. But heart murmurs are also present in healthy people who don’t have a heart problem (called “innocent” heart murmurs).
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Heart murmurs are quite common. In fact, most people had an innocent heart murmur at some point during childhood.
Heart murmurs are classified based on when they happen in a heartbeat:
Diastolic and continuous murmurs are more likely related to heart disease. But every heart murmur should be evaluated.
You can’t hear a heart murmur with your ear. You need a stethoscope, which makes the sounds loud enough to hear.
Healthcare providers classify murmurs by how intense or loud they are. They use a scale of 1 (the murmur can barely be heard, even with a stethoscope) to 6 (it can be heard clearly, even when the stethoscope isn’t pressing on your skin).
A murmur is caused by turbulent or abnormal blood flow across your heart valves.
If blood is flowing more rapidly than normal, it can cause an innocent heart murmur (also called normal or physiologic). This type of murmur is common during:
Innocent heart murmurs can disappear and reappear. They may get louder when your heart beats faster. They often go away eventually, but some last a lifetime. Innocent heart murmurs don’t indicate a problem with your heart.
Some heart murmurs are due to a heart problem or other condition, including:
Some heart murmurs cause no symptoms at all and are discovered during a routine medical exam.
But depending on what’s causing the murmur, you may experience symptoms such as:
A healthcare provider can diagnose a heart murmur by listening to your heart. A murmur makes an abnormal swishing sound.
Your provider listens to your heart with a stethoscope from different places on your chest and back. They listen for certain things in your heartbeat:
Your healthcare provider may ask you to do different things while they listen:
If a healthcare provider hears a murmur, you may need further testing to rule out a health problem. You may be referred to a cardiologist, a physician who specializes in the heart.
Tests that can determine the cause of a heart murmur are:
Many heart murmurs don’t need any treatment and aren’t a cause for concern. But if a murmur is caused by a more serious condition, you may need:
Heart murmurs can’t be prevented. But you can avoid serious problems from a heart condition by getting your heart checked regularly.
The outlook for people with a heart murmur depends on the condition causing it. Kids often outgrow childhood murmurs, and a murmur with pregnancy usually goes away after childbirth. However, murmurs associated with heart conditions require medical treatment.
Seek medical attention if you have any signs of a heart problem, including:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
A heart murmur is a whooshing or swishing sound that occurs when blood moves abnormally over your heart valves. Many heart murmurs are innocent, meaning there’s no cause for concern. But a heart murmur should be evaluated to make sure you don’t have an underlying health problem.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/16/2022.
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