What is Cardiac arrhythmias?
Heart rhythm problems (heart arrhythmias) occur when the electrical impulses that coordinate your heartbeats don't work properly, causing your heart to beat too fast, too slow or irregularly.
Heart arrhythmias (uh-RITH-me-uhs) may feel like a fluttering or racing heart and may be harmless. However, some heart arrhythmias may cause bothersome ? sometimes even life-threatening ? signs and symptoms.
Heart arrhythmia treatment can often control or eliminate fast, slow or irregular heartbeats. In addition, because troublesome heart arrhythmias are often made worse ? or are even caused ? by a weak or damaged heart, you may be able to reduce your arrhythmia risk by adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle.
Types of arrhythmias
Doctors classify arrhythmias not only by where they originate (atria or ventricles) but also by the speed of heart rate they cause:
- Tachycardia (tak-ih-KAHR-dee-uh). This refers to a fast heartbeat ? a resting heart rate greater than 100 beats a minute.
- Bradycardia (brad-e-KAHR-dee-uh). This refers to a slow heartbeat ? a resting heart rate less than 60 beats a minute.
Symptoms of Cardiac arrhythmias are :
A rapid or fast heartbeat is when your heart is beating faster than normal. A normal heart rate is 60 to 100 beats per minute. Tachycardia is considered a heart rate of greater than 100 beats per minute.
If you are exercising, or performing any kind of activity, your heart will normally beat faster. This allows your heart to pump blood throughout your body, to provide oxygen to the tissues.
If you are experiencing fear, anxiety or stress, your heart rate will increase.
People who can feel their heartbeat, or flutter, may be experiencing palpitations. This may be due to stress, anxiety, medications, or it may be a sign of a serious heart condition. If you experience palpitations, you should report this to your healthcare provider.
Excessive sweating is when you sweat more than you might expect based on the surrounding temperature or your activity level or stress. Excessive sweating can disrupt daily activities and cause social anxiety or embarrassment.
Excessive sweating, or hyperhidrosis (hi-pur-hi-DROE-sis), can affect your entire body or just certain areas, particularly your palms, soles, underarms or face. The type that typically affects the hands and feet causes at least one episode a week, during waking hours.
Chest pain can be a sign of a heart attack or other cardiac condition, but it can also be a symptom of problems related to:
- bones and muscles
- other aspects of physical and mental health
Chest pain should always be taken seriously, even if it?s mild or you don?t suspect a life-threatening condition.
Learning to recognize when chest pain should be treated as a medical emergency and when it should be reported to your doctor at your next appointment could help you prevent major medical complications down the road.
Weakness is when strength is decreased and extra effort is needed to move a certain part of the body or the entire body. Weakness is due to loss of muscle strength. Weakness can be a big part of why cancer patients feel fatigue.
Fatigue is an extreme feeling of tiredness or lack of energy, often described as being exhausted. Fatigue is something that lasts even when a person seems to be getting enough sleep. It can have many causes, including working too much, having disturbed sleep, stress and worry, not having enough physical activity, and going through an illness and its treatment.
Cardiac arrhythmias can be caused due to:
Certain conditions can lead to, or cause, an arrhythmia, including:
- A heart attack that's occurring right now
- Scarring of heart tissue from a prior heart attack
- Changes to your heart's structure, such as from cardiomyopathy
- Blocked arteries in your heart (coronary artery disease)
- High blood pressure
- Overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism)
- Underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism)
- Sleep apnea
Other things that can cause an arrhythmia include:
- Drinking too much alcohol or caffeine
- Drug abuse
- Stress or anxiety
- Certain medications and supplements, including over-the-counter cold and allergy drugs and nutritional supplements
What kind of precaution should be taken in Cardiac arrhythmias?
To prevent heart arrhythmia, it's important to live a heart-healthy lifestyle to reduce your risk of heart disease. A heart-healthy lifestyle may include:
- Eating a heart-healthy diet
- Staying physically active and keeping a healthy weight
- Avoiding smoking
- Limiting or avoiding caffeine and alcohol
- Reducing stress, as intense stress and anger can cause heart rhythm problems
- Using over-the-counter medications with caution, as some cold and cough medications contain stimulants that may trigger a rapid heartbeat
Treatment for the Cardiac arrhythmias
To diagnose an arrhythmia, a doctor has to identify the unusual heartbeat and try to find its source or trigger. This will involve a detailed interview, which may touch on medical history, family history, diet, and lifestyle.
A doctor may request the following tests to support an arrhythmia diagnosis:
- blood and urine
- A Holter monitor, a wearable device to record the heart for 1?2 days
- chest X-ray
- a tilt-table test to help identify if sudden decreases in blood pressure or heart rate are the cause
- electrophysiologic testing
- heart catheterization
If you have an arrhythmia, treatment may or may not be necessary. Usually, it's required only if the arrhythmia is causing significant symptoms or if it's putting you at risk of a more serious arrhythmia or arrhythmia complication.
Treating slow heartbeats
If slow heartbeats (bradycardias) don't have a cause that can be corrected, doctors often treat them with a pacemaker because there aren't any medications that can reliably speed up the heart.
A pacemaker is a small device that's usually implanted near your collarbone. One or more electrode-tipped wires run from the pacemaker through your blood vessels to your inner heart. If your heart rate is too slow or if it stops, the pacemaker sends out electrical impulses that stimulate your heart to beat at a steady rate.
Treating fast heartbeats
For fast heartbeats (tachycardias), treatments may include one or more of the following:
Vagal maneuvers. You may be able to stop an arrhythmia that begins above the lower half of your heart (supraventricular tachycardia) by using particular maneuvers that include holding your breath and straining, dunking your face in ice water, or coughing.
These maneuvers affect the nervous system that controls your heartbeat (vagus nerves), often causing your heart rate to slow. However, vagal maneuvers don't work for all types of arrhythmias.
Medications. For many types of tachycardia, you may be prescribed medication to control your heart rate or restore a normal heart rhythm. It's very important to take any anti-arrhythmic medication exactly as directed by your doctor in order to minimize complications.
If you have atrial fibrillation, your doctor may prescribe blood-thinning medications to help keep dangerous blood clots from forming.
Cardioversion. If you have a certain type of arrhythmia, such as atrial fibrillation, your doctor may use cardioversion, which can be conducted as a procedure or by using medications.
In the procedure, a shock is delivered to your heart through paddles or patches on your chest. The current affects the electrical impulses in your heart and can restore a normal rhythm.
Catheter ablation. In this procedure, your doctor threads one or more catheters through your blood vessels to your heart. Electrodes at the catheter tips can use heat, extreme cold or radiofrequency energy to damage (ablate) a small spot of heart tissue and create an electrical block along the pathway that's causing your arrhythmia.
Treatment for heart arrhythmias also may involve use of an implantable device:
Pacemaker. A pacemaker is an implantable device that helps control abnormal heart rhythms. A small device is placed under the skin near the collarbone in a minor surgical procedure. An insulated wire extends from the device to the heart, where it's permanently anchored.
If a pacemaker detects a heart rate that's abnormal, it emits electrical impulses that stimulate your heart to beat at a normal rate.
Implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD). Your doctor may recommend this device if you're at high risk of developing a dangerously fast or irregular heartbeat in the lower half of your heart (ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation). If you have had sudden cardiac arrest or have certain heart conditions that increase your risk of sudden cardiac arrest, your doctor may also recommend an ICD.
An ICD is a battery-powered unit that's implanted under the skin near the collarbone ? similar to a pacemaker. One or more electrode-tipped wires from the ICD run through veins to the heart. The ICD continuously monitors your heart rhythm.
If it detects an abnormal heart rhythm, it sends out low- or high-energy shocks to reset the heart to a normal rhythm. An ICD doesn't prevent an abnormal heart rhythm from occurring, but it treats it if it occurs.
Surgery or other procedures
In some cases, surgery may be the recommended treatment for heart arrhythmias:
Maze procedure. In the maze procedure, a surgeon makes a series of surgical incisions in the heart tissue in the upper half of your heart (atria) to create a pattern or maze of scar tissue. Because scar tissue doesn't conduct electricity, it interferes with stray electrical impulses that cause some types of arrhythmia.
The procedure is effective, but because it requires surgery, it's usually reserved for people who don't respond to other treatments or for those who are having heart surgery for other reasons.
Coronary bypass surgery. If you have severe coronary artery disease in addition to arrhythmias, your doctor may perform coronary bypass surgery. This procedure may improve the blood flow to your heart.
Possible complication with Cardiac arrhythmias
Certain arrhythmias may increase your risk of developing conditions such as:
Stroke. Heart arrhythmias are associated with an increased risk of blood clots. If a clot breaks loose, it can travel from your heart to your brain. There it might block blood flow, causing a stroke. If you have a heart arrhythmia, your risk of stroke is increased if you have an existing heart disease or are 65 or older.
Certain medications, such as blood thinners, can greatly lower your risk of stroke or damage to other organs caused by blood clots. Your doctor will determine if a blood-thinning medication is appropriate for you, depending on your type of arrhythmia and your risk of blood clots.
Heart failure. Heart failure can result if your heart is pumping ineffectively for a prolonged period due to a bradycardia or tachycardia, such as atrial fibrillation. Sometimes controlling the rate of an arrhythmia that's causing heart failure can improve your heart's function.
1 https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-arrhythmia/symptoms-causes/syc-20350668 2 https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/8887 3 https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/16749-arrhythmia/diagnosis-and-tests 4 https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/atrial-fibrillation/arrhythmia 5 https://medlineplus.gov/arrhythmia.html 6 https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/arrhythmia 7 https://www.medicinenet.com/arrhythmia_irregular_heartbeat/article.htm 8 https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/cardiac-arrhythmias-a-to-z