One of the worrying aspects of arrhythmia is that there are not any symptoms. People have it but are not aware and may not be prepared for the sudden increase in heart beats. If the arrhythmia affects the top of the heart it is uncomfortable but nothing more, yet if it is the ventricles that are affected it is more dangerous and can cause death.
Types of Arrhythmia
There are 6 main types and the arrhythmia symptoms are:
• Atrial fibrillation – this is the most common types and there is the feeling of a changed or uneven beat of the heart including palpitations. This irregular heartbeat may only last a minute or so, but can be there for a couple of days. Afterwards you will feel very tired and there is always the concern that there will be a blood clot formed. The result of this can be a stroke so while it may not appear to be a major problem there can be serious consequences.
• Supraventricular tachycardia – this is when an electrical pathway in the heart short circuits and instead of moving away from the atria reenters it and moves back around the heart. The heart can then beat up to 250 times a minute. Again this can last a few seconds or a couple of days and the feeling of tiredness will be there. There is also bradycardia which is when the heartbeat can be as low as 50 beats a minute.
• Ventricular tachycardia – here the blood is pumped too quickly and the ventricles cannot fill up with blood as quickly as they should. 30 seconds is the normal amount of time for this to occur and it can lead to a heart attack.
• Ventricular fibrillation – electrical impulses fire from various sites. This happens quickly and there is not a set pattern. The heart cannot beat properly and if not corrected quickly there will be a cardiac arrest. If the arrest happens it is important there is professional medical help sought but in the meantime CPR should be applied.
• Heart block – the electrical impulses are not able to travel through the heart in the correct manner as the muscle fibers leading to the ventricles are blocking them.
• Tachybrady Syndrome – the sinus node is affected and as a result the heart beats slowly at first then suddenly beats quickly. This leads to a feeling of dizziness and many people faint.
There are many causes including problems with the hearts valves, high blood pressure, thyroid problems, coronary disease or Wolff-Parkinson-White disease whereby there is an electrical fault in the heart.
There are external triggers such as taking in too much caffeine, alcohol or some drugs. Very often you will be referred to a cardiologist to deal with any of the symptoms of arrhythmia. They will carry out blood tests and you will undertake an electrocardiogram (ECG). It is more than likely there will also be an echogram.
Sometimes it will be just the need to relax through a bout of arrhythmia while in some cases medication will be prescribed. In more serious cases there will be the need for surgery and often a pacemaker will be fitted.