Signs & symptoms of a heart condition

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Read about the signs and symptoms of childhood heart disease, which vary in severity. Find out the most common symptoms of a heart condition.

Key points

  • Signs are clinical features that can be seen or measured. Symptoms cannot be directly observed.
  • Signs and symptoms will depend on the type and severity of a heart condition, your child's activity level, and amount of treatment so far.

This page explains why signs and symptoms are different when assessing features of a heart condition or disease.

What is the difference between a sign and a symptom?

Signs and symptoms are not the same thing. A sign is a clinical feature of a disease or condition that the doctor looks for. It is something that can be seen or measured. This includes things like redness or heart murmur, things that the patient may not necessarily feel.

A symptom is something the patient feels or complains about, like fatigue or pain. Symptoms cannot be directly observed. Both signs and symptoms are assessed in order to make a diagnosis.

What influences how common or severe a symptom is?

Symptoms and signs vary according to the type and severity of the heart condition, the child’s activity level, and whether or not the child has been treated for the heart condition.

What are possible symptoms of a heart condition?

  • rapid heartbeat
  • difficulty breathing (shortness of breath)
  • cyanosis ("blue spells")
  • difficulty with feeding (prolonged or ineffective)
  • failure to thrive (poor growth)
  • decreased exercise tolerance
  • palpitations
  • fainting/dizziness
  • chest pain

What are possible signs of a heart condition?

  • abnormal breathing
  • abnormal heart rate (arrhythmia)
  • low blood pressure
  • cyanosis
  • heart murmur
  • edema (swelling)
Last updated: December 4th 2009