Physical Impairments at Birth

Symptoms and treatments for four conditions.

Congenital Heart Defects

Each year, about eight out of every 1,000 infants are born with a heart defect, according to the American Heart Association. A congenital heart defect is one that is present at birth (as opposed to one that develops later). Congenital heart defects form in the early part of pregnancy as the heart is developing.

Diagnosis: Babies and children with heart defects may not experience any symptoms. Instead, a doctor may detect the defect if he hears an abnormal sound or "murmur" during a routine exam. Most murmurs are harmless; those are called "innocent" or "functional." If a pediatrician detects a murmur, he may recommend further tests to determine if the child has a heart defect. Some children with heart defects have a pale grayish or bluish color to their skin. They may also tire easily and experience symptoms such as shortness of breath and fainting when they exert themselves.

Treatment: Serious heart defects, if left untreated, can cause congestive heart failure. According to the March of Dimes, most heart defects can be corrected, or at least helped, by surgery, medicine, or tools such as artificial valves or pacemakers.

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