If you have adult congenital heart disease, or ACHD, it means you are living with at least one defect in your heart or the blood vessels connected to your heart. ACHD is something you were born with, rather than something you develop later in life.
Some people with congenital heart disease aren’t diagnosed until they reach adolescence or adulthood. Others are diagnosed and treated for congenital heart defects as babies or children.
No matter when you were diagnosed, it’s important to continue monitoring your heart health as an adult. You could still develop related conditions that could threaten your life, such as a heart attack or stroke. Many people also need to watch for endocarditis, a common heart infection.
There are more than 30 types of congenital heart disease, including:
We aren’t always sure why someone is born with a congenital heart condition. But among known causes, the most common include:
You’ll receive the most individualized diagnosis and treatment when you work with providers specializing in congenital heart defects and related health issues. At Aurora you will find:
Some types of congenital heart issues cause no or very few symptoms. That's why many people don’t even know they have a heart condition until they reach adulthood. They may only learn they have a heart issue if they undergo tests for another condition or if they begin feeling symptoms.
If you do experience symptoms, they can include:
To diagnose adult congenital heart disease, your doctor will do a thorough physical exam. You might also undergo additional testing, including:
Learn more about heart and vascular testing and diagnosis at Aurora.
You should schedule regular checkups if you have congenital heart disease, even if you feel like you’re in good health. You should ideally do so with specialists like those at Aurora’s Adult Congenital Heart Disease Center.
Some people are not diagnosed until adulthood and then need treatment. Others may have undergone a heart repair in childhood and later require follow-up care.
If your heart needs treatment, your doctor may recommend: