Arrhythmias can be harmless or life threatening and can predispose the individual to stroke or cardiac test, this is why evaluation is must.
- Slow heartbeat: bradycardia.
- Fast heartbeat: tachycardia.
- Irregular heartbeat: flutter or fibrillation.
- Early heartbeat: premature contraction.
Risk factors for arrhythmia
Alcohol abuse can be a cause of arrhythmia, as can drug abuse.
Healthy heart rate ranges in between 60-100 beats per minute at rest . More fit a person is, the lower their resting heart rate, for example, athletes will usually have a low resting heart rate because their hearts are very efficient.
A number of factors can cause the heart to work incorrectly, they include:
- Alcohol abuse
- Structural Heart Disease
- Drug abuse
- Heart disease like congestive heart failure
- Excessive coffee consumption
- High blood pressure
- Thyroid Dysfunction
- Mental stress
- Heart attack
- Some dietary supplements
- Some herbal treatments
- Some medications
Symptoms of arrhythmia
Arrhythmias are very tricky , some patients have no symptoms, but a doctor might detect an arrhythmia during a routine examination or on an EKG.
Symptoms depend on the type of arrhythmia; we will explain the most common below:
Tachycardia is when the heart beats faster than normal, you can have following type of symptoms:
- fluttering in the chest
- Fainting, or nearly fainting)
- chest pain
- sudden weakness
Bradycardia is when the heart beats slower than normal, you can have following type of symptoms:
- Chest pain
- Fainting or nearly fainting
- Difficulties when exercising
- fatigue (tiredness)
- shortness of breath
Atrial fibrillation is when the the upper chambers of the heart (the atria) beat irregularly instead of beating effectively to move blood into the ventricles. Symptoms often develop rapidly, although sometimes, there are no symptoms:
- angina (chest pain)
Diagnosis of arrhythmia
Some of the investigations are required to evaluate cause of arrhythmia to treat it:
- Blood and urine tests
- EKG (electrocardiogram)
- Holtermonitor – Ambulatory ECG for 1-2 days
- chest X-ray
- Electrophysiologic testing
- Heart catheterization
Complications of arrhythmia
Stroke – fibrillation means that the heart is not pumping properly and can cause blood clots. If one of the clots dislodges it may travel to a brain artery, blocking it, and causing a stroke. Stroke can cause brain damage and can sometimes be fatal.
Heart failure – prolonged tachycardia or bradycardia can result in the heart failure. Treatment can usually help to improve this.
Treatments for arrhythmia
Treatment for arrhythmia is only required when patient has risk of a more serious arrhythmia or if the symptoms are very severe.
Treatments for Bradycardia
For bradycardia patient needs a treatment for underlying cause,and if no underlying problem is found, the doctor may advise implanting a pacemaker.
A pacemaker is a small device that is placed under the skin of the chest or abdomen to help control abnormal heart rhythms. Pacemakers use electrical pulses to prompt the heart to beat at a normal minimum rate.
Treatments for Tachycardia
There are several different treatments for tachycardia:
Vagal maneuvers – certain movements might stop some types of arrhythmia that start above the lower half of the heart.
Medications – medication will not cure the patient, but are effective in reducing tachycardia episodes and can help to maintain electrical conduction of the heart.
Cardioversion – the doctor may use an electric shock or medication to reset the heart to its regular rhythm.
Ablation therapy – one or more catheters go through blood vessels into the inner heart. They are placed in areas of the heart that are thought to be the source of the arrhythmia and destroy small sections of those tissues.
ICD (implantable cardioverter-defibrillator) – the device is implanted near the left collarbone and monitors heart rhythm; if it detects an abnormally fast rhythm, it stimulates the heart to return to a normal rhythm.
Maze procedure – a series of surgical incisions are made in the heart. They then heal into scars and form blocks. These blocks guide the electrical impulses, helping the heart to beat efficiently.
Ventricular aneurysm surgery – sometimes, an aneurysm (bulge) in a blood vessel that leads to the heart causes an arrhythmia. If other treatments do not work, a surgeon may remove the aneurysm.