Body image for children with heart disease

PDF download is not available for Arabic and Urdu languages at this time. Please use the browser print function instead

Learn about helping those with congenital heart disease have a healthy body image. Read about issues that may arise, such as embarrassment over scars.

Key points

  • Teenagers with heart conditions can experience symptoms obvious to others such as cyanosis, scars, body hair, weight gain and acne, which affect self-confidence and other areas of life.
  • Physical symptoms can be managed or eliminated.

It is common for teens with heart conditions to be self-conscious about their appearance. This page outlines ways that you can support them.

Body perception

Some teenagers with certain heart conditions may have to live with symptoms that are obvious to others, like constant cyanosis or fatigue. Others are left with scars from surgery or show the side effects of certain drugs. For instance, steroids can increase hair on the body, as well as acne, while some other heart medications result in weight gain and stretch marks. These effects can cause teenagers to be very self-conscious and lack self-confidence, which affects all areas of life, from relationships to career success.

Building self-confidence in the teenager with CHD

Encourage your child to talk about concerns they may have about physical appearance as it relates to their illness. Be sure that they understand the possible effects of treatment and seek out options for ways to cope with or eliminate side effects. For example, acne concerns might be managed with the help of a dermatologist, by changing the drug dose, or by switching drugs. Discuss ways to answer any questions people may ask about their appearance. Try to involve them in activities in which they take pride (such as music or art), to discourage them from focusing too much on appearance.

Last updated: December 14th 2009