Cardiac dysrhythmia (also known as arrhythmia and irregular heartbeat) is a condition in which there is abnormal electrical activity in the heart. The heartbeat may be too fast or too slow, which is considered as irregular. When a heart beats too fast, it is called tachycardia; when it becomes too slow, it is called bradycardia. If not managed properly, these heart palpitations can sometimes result in cardiac arrest.
Signs and Symptoms
At first, most of the patients may have no symptoms at all. Only a doctor can detect a sign of arrhythmia during a health examination. Even if a patient notices symptoms, it does not necessarily mean there is a serious problem. Ironically, some patients with life-threatening arrhythmias may have no symptoms, while others with symptoms may not have a serious problem. Some of the most common symptoms of arrhythmia are:
- Syncope (fainting, or near-fainting)
- Fluttering in the chest
- Sudden weakness
- Angina (chest pain)
- Concentration problems
- Difficulties when exercising
Causes of Arrhythmia
There is no single cause for this. Many things can lead to, or cause, an arrhythmia, including:
- Anxiety, stress, fear, panic
- Caffeine found in coffee, tea, chocolate, colas, some sports drinks
- Certain medical conditions: overactive thyroid, low blood sugar, low potassium level, low oxygen level or low carbon dioxide level in the blood, fever, anemia, dehydration, loss of blood, shock
- Certain medications: asthma inhalers and decongestants, beta blockers (taken for high blood pressure or heart disease), thyroid and anti-arrhythmic medications, and some medications that act as stimulants, such as cough and cold medicines, and some herbal or nutritional supplements
- Illegal street drugs: cocaine and amphetamines (speed)
- Nicotine found in tobacco products
Most arrhythmias are considered harmless and left untreated. After your doctor determines that you have arrhythmia, he checks its severity whether it's abnormal or a regular heart process. If your arrhythmia is abnormal and clinically significant, your doctor will set a treatment plan. Below are the treatment options available to treat arrhythmia:
- Antiarrhythmics - They are used to treat heart beat related disorders, called arrhythmias. Antiarrhythmics work in a variety of ways to slow the electrical impulses in the heart so that the heart can regain a regular rhythm.
- Automated External Defibrillator – It is a kind of portable device that inspects the heart rhythm. If required, it can send an electric shock to the heart to restore a normal rhythm. It is commonly used to treat sudden cardiac arrest.
- Calcium Channel Blockers - CCBs are effective medicines that have been shown to lower blood pressure and help prevent and treat the symptoms of angina (chest pain).
- Cardioversion – It is procedure followed to restore a fast or irregular heart rhythm to a normal rhythm.
- Catheter Ablation – It is a safe medical procedure to treat some types of arrhythmia and involves the use of radiofrequency (RF) energy.