The heart is a vital organ that supplies blood to the muscles and tissues and keeps your body running. In our previous articles, we’ve discussed common conditions that affect the heart, such as congestive heart failure and atrial fibrillation. Take a look at our blog for more information.
While much is discussed about these common ailments, other conditions like patent foramen ovale (or PFO) can also affect the heart. So, what exactly is PFO? And how does it affect your cardiac health? In this article, we’ll explore the ins and outs of this lesser-known condition.
What is Patent Foramen Ovale?
Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO) is a hole in the heart that can be congenital or acquired. The foramen ovale is a flap-like opening between the heart’s upper chambers. It usually closes within three to six months after birth and becomes a part of your heart’s septum.
But if that doesn’t happen, you may have a PFO. In most cases, a PFO is present at birth (congenital). However, one can also develop it as an adult due to injury, infection, or inflammation of the tissue around the heart (acquired).
Should You Be Worried About Patent Foramen Ovale?
If you’ve been diagnosed with a patent foramen ovale, you’re likely wondering if it poses a threat to your cardiac health. Fortunately, this condition is usually asymptomatic and does not require treatment. However, it can be a risk factor for stroke and heart attack in some people.
PFO can also be the underlying cause of other conditions, such as:
- Hypoxemia (low blood oxygen)
- Pulmonary hypertension
- Paradoxical embolism
- Atrial Fibrillation
That makes it crucial to stay in touch with your doctor and monitor your heart health to keep these conditions at bay.
Signs and Symptoms of PFO
If you’re lucky, a PFO will cause no noticeable symptoms. However, if it results in a drop in your blood oxygen levels, you may experience a variety of symptoms, including:
- Chest pain (angina)
- Shortness of breath
- Fatigue or weakness that does not go away with rest
- Feeling faint
What Are the Treatment Options for Patent Foramen Ovale?
Treatment options for a PFO include:
- Device closure procedure, is necessary only for patients who have had a stroke or heart attack caused by the condition
- Anticoagulant or antiplatelet medication for those with a complex morphology PFO
- Watchful waiting if you have no symptoms (that means you will be monitored regularly for any problems caused by your condition)
If you experience symptoms, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes or medication as treatment options.
Now you know what a patent foramen ovale is and why it’s so important to get checked out if you have symptoms. If you are diagnosed with a PFO, your doctor may recommend treatment based on your symptoms and medical history. That said, PFO does not always require treatment. Some people have been living with it for years without any issues at all.
Dr. C Raghu is an eminent cardiologist who specializes in interventional cardiology. If you or anyone you know has been diagnosed with a patent foramen ovale, feel free to consult Dr. Raghu to explore your treatment options.