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Arrhythmia Definition & Overview:

Arrhythmia is a heart disorder in which the rate at which the heart beats is not normal. In arrhythmia, the heart rate is affected. Due to arrhythmia, the heartbeats of a person may get too slow, too fast, too irregular, or too early. This problem occurs when the electrical impulses that are responsible to direct and regulate heartbeats stop working properly. It can get dangerous when an arrhythmia interferes with the flow of the blood to your body. This interference can damage your lungs, brain and, other vital organs. If it is not treated on time, then it can threaten your life. Millions of people suffer from this problem at least once in a lifetime. Sometimes you may have the feeling that your heart is racing or fluttering. This heart disorder is very common and harmless. But there can be some problematic cases in arrhythmias. Rapid arrhythmias are also known as tachycardias. In rapid arrhythmias, the heart rate is greater than 100 beats per minute. Slow arrhythmias are known as bradycardias. In slow arrhythmias, the heart rate is slower than 60 beats per minute. Irregular heart rhythms are known as fibrillation. In a premature contraction, a single heartbeat occurs earlier than normal. Because of arrhythmia, the heartbeats may be:

1.       Too fast - Tachycardias

2.       Too slow - Bradycardias

3.       Too irregular - Fibrillations

4.       Too early - Premature contraction

 

Arrhythmia Symptoms:

The symptoms of arrhythmia vary from person to person. Arrhythmia can also lead to a life-threatening condition sometimes in certain cases. So, it is important that as soon as you experience any of the symptoms of arrhythmia, you should immediately reach out to the best doctors.

Check out some of the common symptoms or signs of arrhythmia:

1.       Heart rate is too fast

2.       Heart rate is too slow

3.       Irregular heartbeat

4.       Early heartbeat

5.       A feeling that heart is racing or fluttering

6.       A feeling that heart is skipping a beat

There can be some serious symptoms that call for an immediate checkup with the doctor. These serious symptoms of arrhythmia are:

1.       Pain in the chest

2.       Dizziness

3.       Breath shortness

4.       Sweating

5.       Anxiety

6.       Lightheadedness

7.       Fainting or near-fainting

8.       Severe heart palpitations

A lot of people ignore the symptoms of arrhythmia. You should immediately look for the doctor if you experience any of the symptoms of arrhythmia as sometimes it can lead to a life-threatening condition.

 

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Causes of Arrhythmia:

There can be many causes of arrhythmia including:

1.   Heart attack: If a person had any heart attack in the past then the chances of developing arrhythmia in that person are high. An ongoing heart attack is the most common cause of ventricular fibrillation which is the most dangerous type of arrhythmia. This condition can cause a person to collapse suddenly or lose consciousness. In this condition, the lower chambers of the heart twitch uncontrollably. There are several other heart conditions also that can lead to arrhythmia.

2.   Diabetes: In diabetes, the blood sugar levels are abnormally high. As per the researchers, if you have diabetes from a longer period of time then the risk for irregular heartbeat increases.

3.   Other causes: Stress, high blood pressure, drug abuse, drinking too much alcohol or caffeine, sleep apnea, genetics, smoking, overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism), underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism) are some of the other causes of arrhythmia.

 

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 Diagnosis of Arrhythmia

As soon as you experience any of the symptoms of arrhythmia, you should reach to the best doctors. In order to diagnose the heart disorder of arrhythmia, the doctor will check whether a person is suffering from the symptoms of arrhythmia. The doctor will also check the medical history and conduct a physical examination for the diagnosis. Various heart-monitoring tests related to arrhythmia can be done by the doctor. Your doctor may also ask or test about the various conditions that may trigger your arrhythmia. Diagnosis can be done with the help of:

1.   Electrocardiogram (ECG): Electrocardiogram is a diagnostic tool that helps to measure the electrical activity of your heart. Sensors or electrodes are attached to your chest or sometimes to your limbs to record the electrical activity of your heart.

2.   Holter monitor: It is a portable device that helps in measuring your heart activity. Your doctor may ask you to wear this device for hours in order to know more about your heart activities.

3.   Echocardiogram: Echocardiogram is an ultrasound test done to check how the chambers and valves of the heart are pumping blood throughout the heart. It is done with the help of a hand-held device that is placed on your chest. The device uses sound waves to produce the images of the size, structure and, motion of your heart.

4.   Event monitor: It is a battery-powered portable device that helps to tape-record the electrical activity of your heart when you have the symptoms. Doctors use it to check the rhythm of your heart at the time of your symptoms.

If the doctor could not find that you are suffering from arrhythmia after these tests then your doctor may ask you to get some more tests done including:

 

1.       Stress test: There are some arrhythmias that get worse with the exercise. During this test, you will be asked to do some exercise may be on a treadmill or stationary bicycle. During these exercises, your heart activity will be monitored.

2.       Tilt table test: If you have had fainting spells then your doctor may ask you to get this test done. In this test, you are asked to lie flat on a table so that heart rate and blood pressure can be monitored.

3.   Electrophysiological testing and mapping: Electrophysiological testing and mapping is a medical test. It is done to actually know the exact cause of the arrhythmia. For this purpose, doctors use thin, flexible tubes that tipped with electrodes.

 

Prevention of Arrhythmia:

Certain measures can be taken in order to get the prevention from arrhythmia:

1.       Avoid a healthy lifestyle: If you do exercise daily then your strength and stamina increase. It also minimises the chances of various heart issues that can arise in the future. You should avoid the intake of nicotine, caffeine, certain illegal drugs, certain over-the-counter medicines and, alcohol in order to stay healthy.

2.       Try omega-3 fatty acids: The risk of sudden cardiac death can be reduced with the intake of omega-3 fatty acids. Cold-water, fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, and herring contain the omega-3 fatty acids. According to the American Heart Association, you should eat fish that has omega-3 fatty acids twice per week.

3.       Have a plan of action: If you find any of the symptoms that can lead to arrhythmia then you should visit the doctor as early as possible. Sometimes ignorance can lead to complications in the later stage.

 

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Treatment of Arrhythmia:

-  Treatment for slow heartbeats: The problem of slow heartbeats is known as bradycardias. There are no medications that can help to speed up your heartbeats. Doctors often treat the patients suffering from bradycardias with a pacemaker. It is a small device generally implanted near your collarbone. One or more wires with electrode tips run from the pacemaker through your blood vessels to your inner heart. This device sends electrical impulses whenever your heart rate stops or is too slow. This device helps your heart to beat at a steady rate.

-  Treatment for fast heartbeats: The problem of too fast heartbeats is known as tachycardias. For the treatment of fast heartbeats various methods can be used:

1. Vagal manoeuvres: It is one of the most common methods used for slowing down the heart rate by stimulating the vagus nerve. Though, this method is not useful for all types of arrhythmias.

2. Medications: Doctors suggest various medicines in order to control the problem of fast heartbeats. You must take the anti-arrhythmic medication as directed by your doctors so that no complications arise in the future.

-  Treatment for irregular heartbeats: The problem of irregular heartbeat is known as atrial fibrillation. Certain treatment is given to treat the people suffering from irregular heartbeats:

1. Medications: If you are facing the problem of atrial fibrillation then your doctor may prescribe you to take blood-thinning medications. Blood-thinning medications prevent the blood clots from forming.

2. Cardioversion: Cardioversion is generally used for a certain type of arrhythmia including atrial fibrillation. It can be done as a procedure or by using medications. In this procedure, a shock or current is given to the heart of a person through paddles or patches on the chest. This procedure helps to restore the normal rhythm of your heart.

 

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Complications of Arrhythmia

Check out the various complications that are associated with arrhythmia:

1.   Stroke: If a chamber of the heart fibrillates then it means that the heart is not pumping blood properly. Due to this, blood collects in the heart chamber. If the blood sits then it can lead to the formation of clots. When a clot breaks off and leaves the heart then it can travel throughout your body and can also enter the circulatory system. If it sticks in a narrowed artery in a brain then it can lead to a stroke.

2.  Heart failure: If you are suffering from the problem of too fast or too slow heartbeat for a long time then it can make your heart weak. A weakened heart cannot pump the blood properly to the body and its organs leading to heart failure.

3.  Sudden cardiac arrest: Due to the fast and chaotic heartbeat of ventricular tachycardia and ventricular fibrillation, the lower chambers of heart quivers. Because of this blood cannot be pumped properly leading to the situation of sudden cardiac arrest.

4.  Alzheimer’s disease: As per the Intermountain Medical Center in Salt Lake City, atrial fibrillation can lead to the Alzheimer’s disease.

 

Myths about Arrhythmia

Myth #1: Those people who have a weak heart suffer from arrhythmia.

It is not true as those who have a strong heart can also suffer from the disease of arrhythmia. Arrhythmia can occur due to various causes. Arrhythmia can occur due to excessive thyroid hormone as well as the intake of certain medicines.

 

Myth #2: It is easy to recognise if a person is suffering from atrial fibrillation.

It is not easy to determine at all. Even the person who is suffering from this problem could not recognise it. In atrial fibrillation, the upper chamber of the heart is small and could not do a lot of work. Because of this, it becomes hard to pump the blood effectively.

 

Myth #3: Arrhythmia can be cured.

The cure totally depends on the cause of the arrhythmia. All types of arrhythmias cannot be cured. Sometimes it can lead to a life-threatening condition. There are certain situations in which you can manage the disease but not cure.

 

Myth #4: Young people can not face the problem of irregular heartbeats.

There is a possibility of an individual born with the irregular heartbeats problem. The problem of atrial arrhythmia is not associated with age and it can occur anytime to any person.

 

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Conclusion:

Arrhythmia is a heart disorder that can occur due to the fast, slow, irregular or early heartbeats. It is a common heart disorder that can be treated with the help of various medications and methods. You should reach out to the best doctors as soon as you discover the symptoms of arrhythmia. In certain situations, arrhythmia can lead to life-threatening conditions if not treated properly on time.

If you are looking for the definition, causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, prevention, complications and myths of arrhythmia then you are in the right place. Please scroll up the page.

 

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Last updated on : 26-10-2018

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