Arrhythmia

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Overview

There is a built-in automatic system in the heart that sends electrical impulses, which controls the rate and rhythm at which your heart beats. A disturbance in these electrical impulses can disrupt the rate and rhythm of the heart, causing the heart to beat either too slow, too fast, or irregularly.

Causes

Arrhythmia can occur due to a long list of problems, heart related, as well as non-heart related. Some of them are as follows:

  • Heart attack
  • Scarring of heart tissue from any previous heart attack or injury
  • Changes in the structure of the heart
  • Blocked arteries in your heart (coronary artery disease)
  • High blood pressure
  • Overactive thyroid gland
  • Smoking
  • Drinking too much
  • Drug abuse
  • Stress
  • Diabetes
  • Sleep apnea
  • Genetics
  • Certain drugs
  • Too much caffeine

Symptoms

Symptoms of arrhythmia may not always be present, and when present, they may not always indicate serious disease, however, following are some of the more notable symptoms of arrhythmia:

  • Slow heartbeat
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Fluttering in the chest
  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness / Light headedness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Fainting

Diagnosis

For the diagnosis of an arrhythmia it is important to identify the type of arrhythmia as well as the underlying cause. The following tests can lead to a diagnosis:

  • ECG
  • Holter monitor
  • Event monitor
  • Echocardiogram
  • Stress test
  • Tilt table test
  • Electrophysiological testing and mapping

Treatment

Treating arrhythmias is not always necessary, only when they are causing symptoms that may indicate progression to a serious problem. Some of the following treatment modalities can be used:

  • Artificial pacemaker
  • Vagal maneuvers
  • Medications
  • Implantable cardioverter-defibrillator
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