Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Heart murmur

7-minute read

If you suspect you or someone close to you may be having a heart attack, dial triple zero (000) and immediately ask for an ambulance.

What is a heart murmur?

Heart murmurs are sounds made by blood flowing through your heart or nearby blood vessels. There are several causes of heart murmurs.

Usually, heart murmurs can be heard only through a stethoscope (a medical instrument doctors use to listen to sounds in the body).

A normal heartbeat is made up of 2 sounds — 'lubb-dubb'. Those are the sounds made when your heart valves close during each heartbeat.

Illustration showing a dental filling used to fill a hole or cavity in your tooth.
A doctor using a stethoscope to listen to a patients heartbeat.

Heart murmurs are whooshing or swishing sounds heard between the sounds of the heartbeat.

Heart murmurs can be there at birth (congenital). They can also develop later in life. Heart murmurs aren’t a disease. But they can be a sign of an underlying heart problem.

What causes a heart murmur?

Innocent heart murmurs

Heart murmurs can sometimes be heard even when your heart is normal. These are sometimes called ‘innocent or flow murmurs’. This can happen when blood is flowing through the valves your heart.

Innocent murmurs usually become more audible when your heart rate and blood flow increases. This may be happen during:

  • exercise
  • pregnancy
  • periods of rapid growth, such as adolescence

These types of murmurs may also be associated with other medical problems, such as:

Anaemia is when you don’t have enough red blood cells to carry oxygen around your body. It is often caused by blood loss or low iron levels.

Hyperthyroidism is when you have too much thyroid hormone in your body.

Abnormal murmurs

Abnormal heart murmurs are caused by an underlying heart problem, which may need treatment. These heart murmurs can happen when your blood is moving:

  • abnormally between the chambers of the heart
  • through the main arteries from the heart

Abnormal murmurs may be caused by valvular heart disease (problems with the valves in the heart). They can also be caused by some congenital heart diseases (heart problems you are born with, such as a hole in the heart). Problems with the heart valves include:

  • stenosis — where your heart valves are too narrow or stiff
  • regurgitation — where your heart valves don’t close properly and blood leaks in the wrong direction

Heart valve problems can be caused by ageing and other conditions including:

ARE YOU AT RISK? — Are you at risk of heart disease? Use the Risk Checker to find out.

What symptoms can be associated with a heart murmur?

Symptoms that can be associated with heart murmurs include:

  • shortness of breath (either when exercising or at rest)
  • light-headedness or dizziness
  • blackouts
  • rapid or irregular heart beat, or heart palpitations
  • chest pain
  • fatigue (tiredness)
  • swelling of the feet and/or legs
  • difficulty doing normal daily activities

Babies or children with a heart murmur due to a heart problem may also have:

  • a bluish tinge on the skin around their lips or under the fingernails
  • poor growth
  • pale skin

Babies might have difficulty feeding. This includes getting sweaty when feeding.

See your doctor if you or your child experience any of these symptoms.

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.

How is a heart murmur diagnosed?

Your doctor is likely to first pick up a heart murmur by listening with a stethoscope.

If your doctor hears a murmur, they may recommend further tests.

These tests can include the following:

  • An electrocardiogram (ECG) — is a machine that records your heart’s electrical activity.
  • A chest x-ray — is used to check if your heart is bigger than normal, or if you have any other signs of heart problems.
  • An echocardiogram — is a heart ultrasound.
  • Cardiac catheterisation — is when dye is used to help your doctor see your coronary arteries on x-ray.

Are heart murmurs dangerous?

Some heart murmurs are not dangerous and don’t need to be treated. But all need to be checked by a doctor.

How are heart murmurs treated?

Treatment will depend on the underlying cause of your heart murmur.

Some heart problems can be treated with medicines.

Sometimes procedures and surgery are needed to repair congenital heart conditions and problems with heart valves.

Resources and support

Heart Foundation has information and resources on heart conditions.

For support and information on childhood heart disease, visit HeartKids. You can call their helpline on 1800 636 704 for support and guidance.

You can also call the healthdirect helpline on 1800 022 222. A registered nurse is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: July 2022

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Heart murmur - Better Health Channel

Many children have innocent heart murmurs that don?t require any treatment, but medical tests are often needed to check.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Heart murmur in children & teenagers | Raising Children Network

A heart murmur is an extra noise in the heart. It has several causes in children and teenagers, some of which you don’t need to worry about. Read more.

Read more on website

Heart valve disease

Read more on Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute website

What is heart valve disease? | Heart Foundation

Heart valve disease means that your heart valve or valves don't open or close properly.

Read more on Heart Foundation website

Congenital heart defects

Congenital heart defect (CHD) or congenital heart anomaly is a defect in the structure of the heart and great vessels that is present at birth.

Read more on WA Health website

Rheumatic fever - Better Health Channel

Untreated rheumatic fever can lead to serious complications such as rheumatic heart disease.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Congenital heart disease: 0-18 years | Raising Children Network

Children with congenital heart disease are born with heart defects. Many heart defects don’t need treatment, and most children go on to live active, healthy lives.

Read more on website

Rheumatic heart disease - Better Health Channel

Stopping episodes of recurrent ARF can prevent rheumatic heart disease (RHD).

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Blood culture | Pathology Tests Explained

Blood cultures are done to detect and identify bacteria and yeasts (a type of fungus) in the blood. Some bacteria prefer oxygen (aerobes), while others thriv

Read more on Pathology Tests Explained website

Fragile X syndrome

People with Fragile X syndrome have intellectual disability, behavioural and learning challenges as well as certain physical characteristics.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Queensland Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.