Signs and symptoms of serious heart defects often appear during the first few days, weeks or months of a child's life.

Ventricular septal defect symptoms in a baby may include:

  • A bluish tint to the skin, lips and fingernails (cyanosis)
  • Poor eating, failure to thrive
  • Fast breathing or breathlessness
  • Easy tiring
  • Swelling of legs, feet or abdomen
  • Rapid heart rate

Although these signs can be caused by other conditions, they may be due to a congenital heart defect.

You and your doctor may not notice signs of a ventricular septal defect at birth. If the defect is small, symptoms may not appear until later in childhood — if ever. Signs and symptoms vary depending on the size of the hole. Your doctor may first suspect a heart defect during a regular checkup while listening to your baby's heart with a stethoscope.

Sometimes a ventricular septal defect isn't detected until a person reaches adulthood. Signs or symptoms can include shortness of breath and a loud heart murmur your doctor can hear when listening to your heart with a stethoscope.

When to see a doctor

Call your doctor if your baby or child:

  • Tires easily when eating or playing
  • Is not gaining weight
  • Becomes breathless when eating or crying
  • Has a bluish tint to his or her skin, especially around the fingernails and lips
  • Breathes rapidly or is short of breath

Call your doctor if you develop:

  • Shortness of breath when you exert yourself or when you lie down
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Swelling (edema) in your legs, ankles and feet
Oct. 26, 2011