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COMPLETE AND COMPREHENSIVE Arrhythmia

Arrhythmia

What is Arrhythmia?

An arrhythmia is a cardiologic condition causing an irregular heartbeat. It means that your heart is out of its regular rhythm. This condition is also known as dysrhythmia. When a person is suffering from this condition, it will be as if his/her heart skipped a beat, or is fluttering. It might feel like the heart is beating very fast or very slow. There are times when an individual doesn’t even realize it.

Arrhythmia is known as an emergency situation in rare cases or could be harmless as well in some cases. If you experience anything unusual with your heartbeat, make sure to get clinical assistance immediately so that doctors can identify why it is occurring and what to do about it.

Arrhythmia types

There are different types of arrhythmias which include:

  • Supraventricular arrhythmia - a type that occurs in the atria also known as the heart's upper chamber. “Supra” indicates the upper chambers of the heart and ventricular means the lower chambers or the ventricles.
  • Ventricular arrhythmia is a type that occurs in the ventricles. Individuals suffering from this condition experience issues in their heart’s lower chambers.
  • Brad arrhythmia is a type that involves slow rhythms caused by diseases in the heart’s system such as atrioventricular node (AV), sinoatrial (SA), and HIS-Purkinje network.

Arrhythmia symptoms

An arrhythmia condition can be silent at times which means it can occur without causing any symptoms. Doctors usually find an uneven heartbeat during physical evaluation. If someone experiences symptoms, it might include:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Chest pounding
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Fatigue
  • Blurry vision and sweating

Arrhythmia causes

Arrhythmia is a condition that can involve varied causes such as emotional, physical, or genetic. In some cases, the causes remain unknown whereas some people might experience this condition due to medications to treat conditions like depression, allergies, common cold, and high blood pressure.

Blood flow changes or physical changes to the heart like scarring can also be one of the reasons for arrhythmia. There are clinical conditions such as thyroid disorder, sleep apnoea, dehydration, high blood pressure, and electrolyte imbalance in levels of calcium, magnesium, or potassium.

Lifestyle and physical factors are also among the causes of arrhythmia. For instance:

  • Not making exercise part of your daily routine
  • Indulging in strong drinking habits
  • Smoking regularly
  • Strong emotions such as anxiety, stress, and anger.

Risk factors

There are some arrhythmia risk factors which are associated with clinical conditions. These conditions increase the risk of developing arrhythmia:

Other risk factors causing arrhythmia include old age, medications such as stimulants, air pollution, family history of arrhythmia, caffeine, and street drugs like cocaine.

Arrhythmia diagnosis

There are a variety of tests involved in diagnosing arrhythmia. These tests are useful in determining the reason for an irregular heartbeat.

Here are the tests that will assist the doctor in reaching a diagnosis:

  • Patient’s medical and family history
  • Physical evaluation
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG) including other range of tests to diagnose this condition
  • A holter monitor, a wearable electrocardiogram device which you can wear anytime - for example, at home or while you are at the office.

Additionally, the doctor might advise a chest X-ray and a echocardiogram to evaluate:

  • Your heart shape and size
  • The valves condition that assist in regulating the blood flow through your heart

The doctor might order additional tests to diagnose arrhythmia which include:

  • Stress test: It allows the doctor to assess your heartbeat during exercise. Doctors can come to a conclusion if exertion is causing arrhythmia. You might be given medication to increase your heart rate as it will help in understanding if you feel discomfort while exercising.
  • Sleep study: This test will help the doctor understand if sleep apnoea is the cause for arrhythmia.
  • Tilt table test: With this test, a doctor can check your heart rate and blood pressure as you lie on the tilted table in varied positions.
  • Electrophysiological test: The doctor will use thin electrode catheters and insert them in the veins going to other areas on your heart and assess the electrical signals. It will also help in understanding the cause of this condition.
  • Blood tests: With blood tests, the doctor can easily check the levels of thyroid hormones, calcium, magnesium, etc. 
  • Electrocardiogram: It will help the doctor to check if your heartbeat is irregular, fast, or slow. It can also show if your heart has expanded and has bad blood flow.

Arrhythmia treatment

There are times when arrhythmia doesn't require treatment, however, it is essential to have this condition clinically assessed.

The doctor will assess if the condition is causing severe symptoms or not depending on which, treatment options will be decided.

If you are experiencing a fast heart rate, your doctor might suggest vagal manoeuvres as it will slow down your heart rate. Vagal manoeuvres include soaking your face with cold water, gagging, coughing, and holding your breath during straining.

Medications

The doctor might give some medications so that your condition is managed and will also help prevent the risk of a heart attack. Here are the medications that your doctor will prescribe depending on the type of arrhythmia:

  • Calcium channel blockers like amlodipine and diltiazem. These can control your blood pressure and heart rate.
  • Beta-blockers such as metoprolol and acebutolol also help in slowing down your heart rate.
  • Antiarrhythmic drugs such as amiodarone, propafenone, and flecainide are used to treat tachycardia and premature heartbeats.
  • Anticoagulants are given to stop blood clots which are a consequence of atrial fibrillation. Your doctor might recommend blood thinning medications like warfarin, and rivaroxaban.

Ensure taking medications as prescribed by the doctor. Get in touch with your doctor in case there are side effects, new symptoms of arrhythmia, or worsening of the condition.

Surgery

If medications and other treatment options are not working, then your doctor might recommend a minor procedure or surgery. There are various procedures that help in treating arrhythmia. It includes catheter ablation, pacemaker, and implantable cardioverter defibrillator. Surgery is also useful in treating serious arrhythmia types like atrial fibrillation.

Prevention

There are a variety of causes behind arrhythmia conditions and it might be complex for you to prevent them. But, you can include some healthy habits in your lifestyle to prevent triggering your condition or making it poorer. Here are the tips you can follow:

  • Make sure to stay away from stress/anxiety. Indulge in activities that will help you to reduce stress
  • Quit alcohol and smoking
  • Stay away from street drugs

Follow a heart-healthy diet with less fat and salt

  • Maintain a healthy weight by including daily exercise in your routine 
  • Make sure to maintain healthy levels of cholesterol and blood pressure

Consult your doctor if some medications are causing arrhythmia and don’t stop taking medications or change them on your own.

FAQs

Is arrhythmia deadly?

Ventricular fibrillation is one of the deadly forms of arrhythmia. This form involves palpitation rather than beating steadily within an individual’s atria. The ventricles stop pumping blood throughout the body including heart muscles.
 

Is arrhythmia a lifelong condition?

Yes, arrhythmia is a lifelong condition. However, the symptoms can be prevented or managed by making certain lifestyle changes such as quitting alcohol and smoking, exercising regularly, healthy eating habits, staying away from stress/anxiety, etc.

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