You may associate heart conditions such as heart attack or coronary artery disease with adults, not teenagers. Teenagers can have heart conditions too, although they are usually not the same conditions that plaque adults. Some conditions are the result of birth defects, while others result from insufficient medical care or an unhealthy lifestyle.
A teenager can be born with a heart murmur, or an unusual sound made during a heartbeat, or she can develop one later in life. In most cases, a heart murmur will not cause any harm to the heart, and is simply the result of exercise or fever. In some cases, a harmless, innocent heart murmur results from conditions such as anemia or hyperthyroidism. Abnormal heart murmurs often result from defects in the heart present at birth, such as a hole in the heart or abnormal valves. While some abnormal heart murmurs do not need treatment, others may require medications or surgery to repair damage to the heart.
An irregular heartbeat, or arrhythmia, may cause a teenager’s heart to beat too quickly or too slowly. While some arrhythmias may be harmless, others can be life-threatening. A teenager may not notice any symptoms of an arrhythmia, and may not know anything is wrong until a doctor listens to his heart with a stethoscope. Some teenagers may feel dizzy or lightheaded, or may notice that their heart is pounding or beating too slowly. In some cases, no treatment is needed. Arrhythmias that can cause future heart problems, such as cardiac arrest, need treatment such as a pacemaker, defibrillator or medication.
The heart of a teenager with cardiomyopathy will become weak and enlarged over time. The condition is the No. 1 reason for heart transplants in children, according to the Children’s Cardiomyopathy Foundation. Most cases of cardiomyopathy in teenagers are nonischemic, and due to an abnormal heart structure or functioning. The most common type of nonischemic cardiomyopathy is dilated, when one of the lower chambers of the heart is enlarged and cannot pump blood effectively. Typically, the cause of a dilated cardiomyopathy is unknown, though it tends to run in families.
Rheumatic Heart Disease
A teenager can develop rheumatic heart disease after an untreated or ineffectively treated case of strep throat. The condition is most common in children between the ages of 5 and 15, according to Kids Health. It usually affects teenagers who live in the developing world, and is rare in the United States. Rheumatic heart disease occurs after strep throat develops into rheumatic fever. Untreated, the fever can cause damage to the heart that makes a teenager more likely to develop future infections in the heart.